ORLANDO, Fla. - Learning to swim can be terrifying. For some who have put off learning the skill for decades, it can be even more daunting. However, there are programs and partnerships happening to help erase the fear.
When we visited the Rosen Aquatic & Fitness Center on International Drive in Orlando, we met three men enrolled in adult swim classes. All three are at different skill levels, but they are all on very personal missions.
"I started for my pain," Lucas Giuzio explained. Giuzio may have started to help his pain, but he has now developed an even greater love for water and is introducing it to his two-year-old son. "I wanted my boy to have the same idea I have," Giuzio added.
Sourabh Triveda realized his fear of water was deeply rooted in childhood trauma. He explained, "Basically, I’m from a different country and there I have seen in my childhood one of the guys he went for the swimming and he drowned. So it was a fear."
Triveda is not alone. In a 2022 news release, the American Red Cross highlighted water competency, reporting more than half (54%) of all Americans either can’t swim or don’t have all the basic swimming skills.
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"It is amazing how often I hear people tell me that they’ve never learned how to swim. I hear it probably on a daily basis," began Mike Miller, the executive director at Rosen Aquatic & Fitness Center. "There’s a demographic of people that do not know how to swim. You’ll notice that it typically happens in more of the African American households," Miller continued.
In an effort to eliminate the long-standing swimming disparity, Rosen partners with organizations like Step into Swim. With a little bit of help from grant funding, the two are able to provide free lessons for people in need.
If you have never learned how to swim, you can get one month of free lessons through the program. Miller added, "So you don’t have to worry about if you can’t afford it or different things like that."
Sourabh is one of many who began this journey with no experience. Now a few months in, he has his daughter to thank for giving him that final nudge to get in the water.
"My daughter came over here, and she was doing the classes, and she’s like nine and then one day she asked me, ‘Do you know swimming?’ I said, ‘No I don’t know.’ So then she told me when I’m going for the swim classes, ‘Why don’t you take the classes?’ Then one day we both can swim together. From that day on, it was like, 'Okay, let’s go and join the swim classes."
Sourabh hopes sharing his story will inspire others to get over their fear and get into the water.
Miller added, "It’s never too late to learn how to swim."