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Making A Splash: Program Teaches Water-Shy Adults How To Swim

Rex Azinge shows adult swim coach Chris Holley his form on June 29, 2016.
Nic McVicker
Rex Azinge shows adult swim coach Chris Holley his form on June 29, 2016.
Making A Splash: Program Teaches Water-Shy Adults How To Swim
Making A Splash: Program Teaches Water-Shy Adults How To Swim
Making A Splash: Program Teaches Water-Shy Adults How To Swim GUEST: Chris Holley, adult swim coach

this is KPBS midday editionI Maureen Cavanaugh summa's willingness activity an activity that people of all ages can enjoy even though the Red Cross that's more than half of --that's more than half of Americans either for adults one well enough to be safe in the water. That's the best Masters swimming -- US Masters swimming comes in the nonprofit group believes teaching adults how to swim the slides. KPBS health reporter Kenny Goldberg caught up with one of coaches in La Jolla hoping adults get their feet wet some [ Captioner did not understand because of speaker's accent ] he has to come up all the courage to get into the water. When -- one day when he was 21, he was pushing around the pool with a friend of Ms. Somebody pushed me and I -- an account and I waited all the way to the bottom and ever since then I was scared and ten sup. The problem is he was a Petty Officer first class in the Navy and if you want to advance his career, -- in his career, the get comfortable in the water. So he called to this pool when the holy all caps off to learn how to swim all over again. He gets in the shower shallow and in puts on a slimming belt them he is tickets to the pages. that's why the -- you to work on the kick a -- cake a little bit Holly was a -- with a competitive swimmer high school and college. A few years ago the treating training for triathlons in -- and in open water swim, Holly notice most of the other triathletes with that they had learned to swim from reading books. everybody was analytical and they had a lot of hangups instead of the nation food in the water. What happened to see an adult learned -- learn to swim certification course. I thought I have to jump on this. he got -- got a certification and eventually -- acidification and eventually found his calling getting private lessons to adults want to learn how to swim. He says the key to teaching adults is to get them to relax, I always tell them, be like water. Relax that you are in the waterthe more you can move into better and he will stay afloat, that may have worked for briefly, but not easy to do. How he starts out with -- Holly starts out with the basics. They and in the shallow end of the pool and grab onto the side. Get nice and low and we're going to inhale about the water -- wasn't -- water and exhale underneath the -- weather and exhale underneath the water. I will demonstrate, US Masters swimming representative Misty Hyman jutted swimming competitively when she was five. On up a court open metal and the two -- battle in the 200-meter, but I 2000 Olympics, the state, he's a senior assistant coach for the Arizona University 20 summa a lot of focus is placed on teaching young kids to swimin preventing dropping which I think is -- which I think is so important and the people who grow up and maybe haven't learned to swim the through the cracks and they don't knowthere are resources to help them survive his Holly -- is Holly says as he was expressing can take the money that we afraid of the water and teach them to swim across the deep end of the pool of I had a lady before we do that and she got a cost of the -- call for the other side and, she said I am proud of myself my family would be proud of myself because she's only one in her Emily will learn to swim and she started to cry a little bit and as an instructorthat's what it's all about you impacted their life for the rest of it, the Centers for Disease Control says every day in the US ten people drowned. Holly is ranked like -- trying to make a dent in that it -- the state one student at the time --one student at the time, Kenny Goldberg's KPBS news -- KPBS. [ MUSIC PLAYING ] KPBSmusic with more on how to teach adults swim I am joined by Chris --I am joined by Chris Holly bottles -- auto swimming instructor you just heard andChris, will come, thank you. when -- was it a mix of people coming to you for left -- collected? Does the never got a large love to learning versus those habits robotic experience. I get a little bit of bothright now a lot of people to try to take lessons from they were kid and even with a move for -- they moved to a different space -- place, but that did not have an access the waterunlike riding a bike they never got around to it and living -- and living in San Diego is watereverywhere and slimming of -- never came --anthony never came back to them. They come to me in the start from scratch. We get a lot of people who never had access to water. In the coach them -- and the coach them as well as people have had a traumatic experience that might -- my to walk them -- walk them out of the entry swimming andthey decide if they get olderwith elderly people they can collided the morning bicycling John like joint tissues, swimming is what the doctors prescribed as the best form of exercise and when they come in a I don't know how to spend the day come talk to me. what is the age range that you see in the classes. I see everybody physically in the mid- 40s all the way up the current had a 66-year-old learn to swim for the first time . I heard you tell them a piece of advice is to be like the water to stay relaxed. You probably know nobody's years said -- know it's easier said than done. How do you coax adults to let gothose fears . mindset, trying to when they get in the water is that -- letting them visually looking at what the body does and trying to keep them in the conversation that we are having that about water. is right about their -- strength about their childhood building the General the board between -- report swimmer and before they know it, trying to do down there up to their needs or accidentwe and and when I can visually see that, they're making -- they are making the progress mentally and let them take notes, haze always been waterhow did the deal? And some of them, if that is scary as I thought. So how moment that may seem small to me but for themthey are milestone that they never cost before. I really let them live in that moment for a little bit and be slowly -- fully walk across the curriculum and go from there. It's a lot of the reading language from the -- language from the swimmer -- --. do a lot of people think they can swim when they -- win when they can't how the amount of the help us work with the he ? I was when I first started doing caps off, so -- caps on, so many people say they say they capson. Only try to do is get through this one because they hated. When I look at how they are in the water additional techniques and pretty much trying to pull themselves to the water as much effort as possible and there's no deficiency and when I talk to people more and more, did you ever take lessons in the say -- and they say noI watched you to videos and try to copy what I and what watching the Olympic trials like the kids being taught from there's some chapters, how long does it take you to teach someone how to swim. I do a minimum of two weeks. At the end of six weeks, I have yet to find somebody like get to teach husband safely and after that six weeks I have people come back and say I had a lot of onto the help them better? So it went from not being able to know how to swim to hey, how can I do this better? I there any quick it that you can get someone because I know the CDC holds -- accident hold down the drowning is big deal for adults and people think they know others will and they had now your pool they get knocked into the pool and realized can swim. If somebody doesn't take a class -- classicist anything essential they would need to know something like that were to happen ? get to the surface as much as possible -- is possible and loaded on their backs. Spread their legs and arms out nice wide and take nice graph, the more the lower lungs with air that buoyancy will keep you close and get to the surf is in blacks more which is that the -- difficult in that time, to start moving your arms and direction you want to go from being -- and be relaxed in the water is the --the key thing, the more panic we get in -- and more rigid and send -- ten the more likely be -- you are going to start to think some of the three survive that start thinking about taking a trip cost -- the same class, thank you so much.

Rex Azinge used to love to swim as a kid.

But now, at the age of 39, he has to summon up all his courage just to get in the water.

One day, when he was 21, Azinge was horsing around a pool with some friends.

“Somebody pushed me, and I panicked," Azinge recalls. "And I went all the way to bottom and hit my head, before I came up. And ever since then, I’ve just been scared and tensed up whenever I get in the water.”

The problem is Azinge is a petty officer first class in the Navy. And if he wants to advance in his career, he needs to get comfortable in the water.

So Azinge has come to the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex in La Jolla to learn how to swim all over again.

He gets in the shallow end of the pool, and puts on a flotation belt. Then swim coach Chris Holley shows Azinge the proper strokes.

“One arm over another, straight up, elbows at the biceps, elbows locked…” Holley said as Azinge glides into his first exercise.

After a few strokes, Azinge pops up. Holley moves closer to him.

“There. Take some deep breaths," Holley tells him. "You feel how easier that was with your legs kind of higher?”

“Uh-huh.”

“That’s why we’re gonna have to work on your kick a little bit more," Holley said.

Holley was a competitive swimmer in high school and college. A few years ago, he started training for triathlons. At an open water swim group, Holley noticed that most of his fellow triathletes looked like they had learned how to swim from reading a book.

“Everybody was very analytical, and they had a lot of kind of hang-ups instead of being nice and fluid in the water," Holley said. "So, I happened to see an adult learn-to-swim certification course come through my email, through U.S. Masters Swimming, and I thought, 'you know, I gotta jump on this.'”

Holley got his certification, and eventually found his calling: giving private lessons to adults who want to learn how to swim.

He says the key to teaching adults is to get them to relax.

“And I always tell 'em, just like Bruce Lee said, 'be like water.' The more relaxed you are in the water, the more you’re going to move and feel better, and you’re gonna stay afloat," Holley said.

That may have worked for martial arts expert Bruce Lee, but it’s not easy to do.

So Holley starts his students out with the basics.

They stand in the shallow end of the pool and grab onto the side.

Holley stands next to them.

“Get nice and low, and we’re going to now inhale above the water and exhale underneath the water. Don’t start yet. I’m going to demonstrate,” he said.

Holley goes through the motions, inhaling deeply, submersing himself and blowing bubbles while he's underwater.

Misty Hyman started swimming competitively when she was five and won a gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly in the 2000 Olympics.

These days, Hyman is the senior assistant coach for the Arizona State University swim team. She's also a spokeswoman for U.S. Masters Swimming and its Swimming Save Lives Foundation.

Olympic gold medal swimmer Misty Hyman, June 13, 2016.
Nic McVicker
Olympic gold medal swimmer Misty Hyman, June 13, 2016.

“A lot of focus is placed on teaching young kids to swim and preventing drowning, which I think is so important," Hyman said. "But I think the people that grow up and maybe haven’t learned to swim, they slip through the cracks, and they don’t know that there are resources available to help them.”

Holley said in as few as six lessons, he can take someone who’s deathly afraid of the water and teach them to swim across the deep end of a pool.

“And I had a lady recently do that," he said. "And when she got across to the other side, she looked, she says, ‘I’m proud of myself, my family would be proud of myself,’ because she’s the only one in her family to learn to swim. And she started to cry a little bit. And as an instructor, that’s really what it’s all about: You have just impacted their life, for the rest of their life.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people drown every day in the U.S. Holley is trying to make a dent in that statistic, one student at a time.