independent

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Water safety classes still going strong after 30 years

Published 09/07/2014|05:44

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For 30 years there has been an unbroken history of water safety classes in Wicklow and this year classes have resumed in Bray and Greystones after a break of a number of years.

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PRO of Wicklow Water Safety Joan Morton said swim week took place in Wicklow town last week at the Harbour while this year it's safety week.

'We've had classes in Wicklow for at least 30 years. They were carried out first by the Red Cross which then amalgamated with Irish Water Safety. We have a swim and safety week each year during the summer but we also do classes in the pool throughout the year so it's a very active branch.'

Joan said safety week took place last week while registration for Greystones' safety week will take place on July 14.

This year in Wicklow, 255 children took part in swim week in Wicklow town with four instructors ably assisted by two helpers each took to the water for several hours a day to teach.

The children aged between four years and 16 years with varying levels of competence flourished under the tutelage and Joan said it's not just swimming that's taught.

'We teach everyone taking part about water safety too – not just in the water but on farms and general water safety. It's vital that everyone knows just how important water safety is. In the last two weeks there's been a number of drawings around the country and we don't just teach swimming but also how to respect water and the dangers associated with it.

'We also focus on the 14 points steps to safe swimming which include advice like paying attention to signs, swimming parallel to the shore and not to swim after eating or drinking. Things that people do generally know but sometimes forget.'

With the recent hot weather swimming has been a popular past time but unfortunately it's often when people forget the 14 basic safety rules.

Joan said that teaching people how to swim at a young age can stand them in good stead all their lives and that's what water safety is such an important part of swim week.

The Wicklow branch of the Irish Water Safety is a very active one and a lot of its success is down to the volunteers who work tirelessly throughout the year.

Joan said the volunteers give up a lot of their own time particularly during the summer months and said that adults too can benefit as the branch organises adult swimming lessons later in the summer in the evenings.

Joan said the benefits for the volunteers are endlessly satisfying. 'It's great to see people bloom in confidence as the week progresses and generally the same kids come back year on year to progress through the various stages of the lessons and also complete the safety weeks.

Learning to swim in open water can also instill confidence as people are less nervous of unsteady surfaces underneath or the odd piece of seaweed floating past. They are also aware of the dangers of shifting underfoot surfaces, uneven depths and the tidal changes. They also become more accustomed to waves and their varying strength knowing how to get their balance back if knocked over by a stronger wave.

Wicklow People

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