Outdoor swimming has been life-changing for Katherine Short
I haven’t always been a swimmer but I have always loved the water. As a child growing up in Oxfordshire, I regularly used to play and spend my summers in the rivers, but I was never told about the dangers or how to stay safe. How things have changed!
Following a knee injury in 2008, I took to the water to rehabilitate and remain fit. Indoors progressed to outdoors, wetsuit to skins, and then summer became all year round. I have met some truly remarkable people and made many friends along the way, but, best of all, swimming has given me some fantastic opportunities, including volunteering on the Swimsafe initiative, jointly run and funded by the RNLI and Swim England. I volunteer at Bude, on the north Cornish coast. As a regular sea pool swimmer, I was approached by Bill Williams, the local Swimsafe co-ordinator, and asked if I could help with Swimsafe. I have now been volunteering for three years.
Swimsafe is currently run during the summer months at various locations around the country. It is free for all 7 to 14 year-olds, teaching them how to be safe in and around the water and how to call for help if necessary. They receive a water safety talk by a qualified lifeguard, and then they are taken into the water with qualified swim instructors and shown how to stay safe. Each session lasts approximately an hour and is great fun. The parents are actively encouraged to stay and watch and are educated at the same time; some even take part in the sessions. Every child receives goodies, including a free Swimsafe t-shirt and other bits and pieces.
The beauty with Bude is that at high tide, the sessions are in the sea, and at low tide, the sea pool. We have many children returning year on year, or doing several sessions in one season. This year, we managed to put just over 1000 children through the scheme, and that included local schools before our season commenced with the general public and also “Nippers” from Bude surf life-saving club.
My role involves handing out leaflets, meeting and greeting the families, kitting the children out with rash vests and wetsuits and rinsing the equipment when they come back. Bude has an excellent team of volunteers, lifeguards and swim instructors, which makes it so much fun to do, as well as being outside at the beach all day! Just hearing the positive feedback from both the parents and children makes it all worthwhile.
Swimming has given me so much and this is my way of giving something back to a sport that I truly adore, at the same time getting the message out there to keep people safe. If only I’d had the same advice all those years ago when I was exploring my local rivers.
So, if you have children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, get them signed up to Swimsafe next year. For and anyone thinking of volunteering, just do it. You’ll get more back than you ever expected.
Find out more www.swimsafe.org.uk