Yup, I’m not referring to kiwi as the bird or the fruit but me, Jub. I can’t bloody swim!
Yeap, I grew up in New Zealand a few minutes from the ocean but that doesn’t shit. I can’t swim!
Pretty embarrassing to say really!
Luckily it’s easy to avoid swimming or taking precautions wherever in the world I happen to be. Not going to lie though, it would make things a lot easier in lots of ways.
It’s not for a lack of trying or lack of opportunity (well there’s always more you can do of course). It’s just something I never learnt how when growing up. It’s the breathing part that gets me I think?
The definition of swimming I use: being able to move a few hundred metres comfortably in water over head height without drowning.
I’ve not put this to the test but have a feeling I could survie a life threatening situation with:
- doggie paddling
- dolphin dives
- & flailing with a large side of water intake finished up with exhaustion.
Certainly not in a comfortable fashion.
It’s not for a lack of not attempting at all over the years & I’m certainly not alone having met people from around the world in the same shoes as me.
Growing Up Around Water
Fishing with the old man
As a youngster, I started heading out with Dad on his boat once Mum thought I was old enough (3 or 4 years old?). I’d happily spend time in the boat, even managed to catch the odd fish. They were massive of course.
The water never scared me, except one day when I peered over to see what fish I caught and I saw a massive blue shark…I flew to the other side of the boat.
As a kid, swimming lessons were a part of our school curriculum growing up.
The memory isn’t great but I remember being held back in the small pools. Other friends would be slow to get the hang of the basics but eventually moved up, not me though.
I didn’t mind being in the pool if it was deeper, as long as the side was within lunging distance.
When it came to swimming sports, I’d be sitting on the sidelines. Although I was tall enough that my head could bop above by age ~10 so it was never the end of the world.
In the weekends and after school, I was always keen to head to the beach. I was happy enough in the waves, as long as I could either touch the ground or was attached to something floaty ( I could even ‘surf’ a little).
During college (13 – 18 years old) there was no swimming classes until I hit the final year in 2006. Then everyone in our Physical Education class had to compete in a triathlon. Shit!
The triathlon gave me the heebie jeebies when we were first told. A triathlon means swimming out to a buoy a few hundreds off shore in the ocean. AND BACK. Looks like I’d be finally learning to swim.
A couple of weeks in we were told we’d be doing the swimming leg in the local pool. Phew! Despite this, we did have regular swim training starting at 5 am, I would attend. We worked specifically on our technique as part of class. Watching a video tape of my swimming stroke was hilarious, it really was (is) horrendous.
My biggest achievement: not putting my feet down for a whole 50 metre length of the pool. It certainly wasn’t comfortable though and it wasn’t replicated again.
Come triathlon time, the swimming leg came last rather than the traditional first leg. After the run and the bike leg, there was no chance and I vbounced along the pool for the eight laps to the finish line. It cost me a few lines, but the lack of swimming didn’t stop me from finishing the race. Phew!
Swimming & Water Activities While Travelling
With Dolphins In The Bahamas
While travelling I’ve subconsciously avoided many water activities, particularly scuba diving. I remember back in 2009 before I knew what travel was being in the Bahamas for the Poker World Cup (NZ representative right here).
Because I trusted the dolphins to push me across the deep pool by my feet. For the second activity we would be holding a motorised machine thing to push us through the water. Winner!
The Hairiest Incident In Chiang Mai
Opening up about not being able to swim isn’t something I announce to the world (until now?) but I do let people around me know how bad the swimming skills are when a water activity is involved.
The hairiest incident I can remember was at the quarry in Chiang Mai a couple years ago. A spot where you jump off various cliffs into the water. Below the water, no one really knows how deep it is or what is lying below (people have drowned there).
Anyhow, I gave a heads up to my friends who I was with that I was a bad swimmer and to stay near where I’d plunge into the water 5 metres away below. Just in case. The exit point was 50 metres away.
As I jumped and hit the water. It was exhilarating and I popped up back up (semi surprosed) surrounded by the cauldron of cliffs. It didn’t take long before I knew my breathe was buggered. I started trying to move towards the exit point but my energy was already gone on impact. Luckily my friends were awesome and pretty much got me back. If they weren’t there, I could probably have made it, but it wouldn’t have been pretty.
Pushing The Boundaries In The Last Year!
The underwater world looks epic, and I really need and want to get to know it better. I still cannot swim but have not let the fear limit me completed, as long as I can be near safety or having something floaty attached to me I’ll be sweet.
After visiting the Komodo Dragons last year, the boat took us to Pink Beach where snorkeling is a popular activity.
I waded into the water and it was quickly apparent I wouldn’t see any fish unless I went beyond the sand over the reef (above head height). Where it becomes scary for me.
We did have some flippers available though, something I’d never tried before. Do you know how awesome flippers are!!??
Anyhow, after some trial runs in the shallows I managed to get out over the reef and see some cool sea life. Being able to propel forward at some non-zero speed was awesome. I didn’t venture to far out but it was awesome nonetheless. The flat waters made the breathing with the snorkel part easier.
The next day was a whole new kettle of fish (swimming?) however. The theory was to snorkel around a little island. There was a little bit of chop on the sea, but I figured with our guides and the rest of the tour group nothing much could go wrong.
All was well, until I started getting water in the snorkel. Shit started hitting the fan as panic set in. I found the shallows and stood up. On the coral. Turns out that’s a big no no of which I didn’t know but makes total sense as soon as it was pointed out to me. I continued around the island, clinging to the sides wherever possible…getting pulled away from those massive needly clam things at the last second
Wholly shit it was exhausting though and that did shake my confidence a bit.
When the next snorkelling opportunity was laid out in front of me, again in Indonesia off the stunning Sulawesi I turned it down. There was a current and with only the boat to cling onto when exhausted it felt a bit too far out of my comfort zone to enjoy.
That brings us to now in the Philippines. Home of some of the best islands and best beaches in the world. I’m now in Siargao, famous it its surf beaches, Cloud 9 (check out some of the waves here) in particular. I used to surf in the waves back at home, but hadn’t done so ever since which was over half my life ago. Craziness.
I had to put that right. Today will be my third day out in the surf and my average swimming skills have come to the forefront. My paddling is abysmal. Am I really just that inefficient with my energy in the water?
Anyhow, my second time I certainly felt like my paddling game was stronger…the current was a pain though so I didn’t get around to much surfing, more so just not getting washed down the other end of the island.
Today? Who knows what will happen! Ideally I’ll still be around to finish this post.Update: the surf was too small, no surfing today!
I Should Probably Learn To Swim
A Hap Hazard Plan
Early last year, I did move into an apartment complex in Chiang Mai with a vague goal of trying to swim having come across a post of the Four Hour Work Week blog about learning to swim in 10 days via the Total Immersion method.
Unfortunately I still haven’t got around to buying the Total Immersion book and seeing people in the pool doing there laps, meh it made it too shameful to go all in on this method. I feel as though this is my best chance of success though!
My technique has a lot of room to improve that’s for sure. But hopefully sometime in 2017 I can carve out a month or so somewhere to properly learn! Hopefully I can then pass on any random tips or tricks to anyone else out there who like myself who asks themselves regularly “why can’t I swim?”
I’m sure there are others out there in similar position. If you learnt to swim at a later age, what was the magic ingredient for you?