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The Water’s Fine

The Water’s Fine
June 2015
A new program helps adults overcome fears and teaches them, finally, to swim

A SwimCalm beginner session in action; to view the upcoming class schedule, which includes offerings in June, July, and August, visit

“Traditional lessons often begin with skills too advanced for fearful students.” —Kathleen Wilson, SwimCalm founder

Splashing in ocean waves, diving into a backyard pool, kayaking a lazy river: Lowcountry summers are all about agua. But what if you’re afraid to swim?

“Fear of water, which often stems from a bad experience or near-drowning, is a common, embarrassing, and potentially life-threatening issue among adults,” says Charleston City councilwoman Kathleen Wilson, a marathon swimmer who also runs the annual 12-mile Swim Around Charleston. In 2014, she and longtime swim instructor Nancy Haynsworth introduced a solution: SwimCalm. The local affiliate of Florida-based nonprofit Miracle Swim Institute starts by teaching the science behind water and how to prevent panic, then moves on to basic swimming techniques in 22- to 24-hour beginner courses packed into one or two weeks (“next step” classes are available, too).

Hanahan resident Leslie Martin is one of about 40 beginner graduates to date. “For years, I had problems even getting my face wet in the shower,” says Martin, who’d never swam despite living near the coast for all of her 72 years and having tried two other classes previously. “Now I feel confident jumping into 11 feet of water. For the first time ever, I couldn’t wait for summer!”