Black Swimming Association launches pioneering research programme

The Black Swimming Association (BSA) has announced it is launching a ground-breaking research programme to provide a greater understanding of the behaviours and barriers preventing people of African, Caribbean and Asian heritage from taking part in aquatics.

Launched in collaboration with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the project will will be woven into a large-scale community engagement programme to create lasting relationships between disengaged communities and the aquatics sector.

BSA chair and co-founder Danielle Obe said: “We’re confident that this pioneering research will improve our understanding of the issues and barriers that children and adults in African, Caribbean and Asian communities face in learning to swim and engaging in aquatics and water safety, and that they will go on to benefit from aquatic activity throughout their lives.

“For the first time we will gain real insight into whether these barriers are cultural, faith-based, community influenced or based on individual circumstances. We hope, through a combination of the research and a community engagement programme, to affect real change in the aquatic sector.”


According to Sport England, 95% of black adults and 80% of black children do not swim, while an estimated 532,000 children from ethnically diverse communities have missed out on swimming lessons due to the pandemic.

Professor Mike Tipton, MBE, lead researcher and academic partner at the University of Portsmouth will lead the water-based research, which is expected to analyse the physiological reasons that are widely believed prevent people of African, Caribbean and Asian heritage from being proficient swimmers, whilst teaching participants about floatability.

“By examining the physiological, anatomical and morphological characteristics of African, Caribbean and Asian volunteers in air and water, the proposed research will hopefully help to dispel the myth that these individuals are unable to stay afloat and therefore enjoy water-based activities,” said Professor Tipton.

Professor Tipton’s previous research has been a cornerstone of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) FLOAT to Live safety campaign, which encourages anyone in trouble in the water to resist the urge to thrash round, relax and lean back, extending their arms and legs like a starfish to regain control of their breathing.

The RNLI is backing the BSA’s innovative new research programme with the two organisations forming a partnership to collaborate on water safety and drowning prevention work.

The BSA encourages individuals and donors who would like to fundraise or participate in its upcoming research programme to get in touch via the charity’s website.

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