Water safety begins with learning to swim

In this June 14, 2012 file photo, thousands of kids and adults at aquatics facilities around the globe came together to set a new world record for the World's Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL), including Karen Welk and her daughters Lily Welk, 2, and Sarah Welk, 7, at the H. Spurgeon Cherry (Westside) Pool in Gainesville.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 12:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 12:06 p.m.

Winter wardrobes may still be in use, but in just a few weeks, summer will be here and that means pool season.

Florida is famous for its water sports. Whether at a city or home pool, a lake, a spring or the ocean, being safe in the water is rule No. 1. And there's no better time than now to consider swim lessons, swim camps and lifeguard training for children, teenagers and adults.

Drowning is the leading cause of death among toddlers in Florida, according to Shands at UF, which is why pediatricians encourage parents to be sure their children know how to swim. Several area camps offer a variety of water safety classes for children and adults.

— The City of Gainesville's Spring swimming lessons begin April 1 and run through May 31.

Michelle Weydert, the city aquatic leader, said swim lessons are offered for children ages 6 months old to 2 years old, for children ages 3 to 5, and for children ages 6 to 12.

The preschool age group, or the 3- to 5-year-olds, has three levels, while the oldest group has five different levels. The spring classes are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and last for three weeks. They are held at the Dwight H. Hunter (Northeast) Pool, located at 1100 NE 14th St.

Summer swim lessons start June 10 to mid-August with each lesson lasting for two weeks. The morning classes are at the H. Spurgeon Cherry (Westside) Pool, 1001 NW 31st Drive. Registration for both spring and summer lessons opens March 19, and both residents and nonresidents can sign up either online or at Building B in the Thomas Center, 306 NE Sixth Ave. Swim lessons cost $36.75 for residents and $55.75 for nonresidents, Weydert said.

— The Swim Squad is a group of energetic instructors who travel to home and community pools to teach children how to swim and be safe in the pool. Private and group lessons are available. Dates and hours: April 1-Sept. 30, by appointment. Ages: 6 months and older. Cost: $13-$28/lesson. Contact: 375-8080 or info@theswimsquad.com.

— The 2013 Gator Swim Camp offers two different types of camps: session and elite. The Session Swim Camp has three different sessions, each lasting for four days. The first session begins June 10; the second, June 14; and the third, July 8. Gator Swim Camp gives campers who finished eighth grade the opportunity to be a resident camper.

These campers stay in UF dorms and are provided three meals a day. All other day campers must be 8 years old or older. The cost for a day camper is $550, and resident campers cost $650.

The second type, Elite Swim Camp, has two sessions: June 9-21 and June 30 to July 12. Elite campers must be 14 years old or older, experienced and highly motivated swimmers. Each session costs $2,000. For more information, visit http://www.gatorzone.com/camps.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the number of children who drown per year could fill three to four preschool classrooms. With swim lessons, lifeguard training and supervised swim camps, drowning can be easily prevented, experts said.

Christian Kamrath, a 20-year-old geography junior at the University of Florida, has been a lifeguard for four years and has taught swim lessons for three years. He teaches students and faculty to swim at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, and he lifeguards mainly at the O'Connell Center and the Florida Pool, which is located next to the Student Recreation and Fitness Center.

Kamrath said he started to lifeguard because he loves the water and wanted a job that required a lot of responsibility. He said certification took an entire weekend from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with two certification classes: CPR/AED and lifeguarding skills.

"I like teaching," he said. "It's rewarding to see people make progress, and I have fun seeing people learn something new."

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