Adults need swim lessons, too

Many find chance to get fresh start

Learning to swim wasn't something that Tim Smith intentionally avoided.

He was never afraid of the water, and he said he can float and "look like I'm swimming." But he decided that wasn't enough, so 10-12 years after a failed attempt at the local Y, the 43-year-old was back in the water this week, taking an adult swim lesson class at Augusta Aquatics Center.

He joined four others in the beginner class, including Yolanda Hunter, who was trying her best to overcome a fear of water that dates back to her childhood.

"I'm tired of going on vacation and not knowing how to swim," Hunter said as she practiced her flutter kick with both hands firmly on the wall.

Although it's mostly children who take swim lessons in Augusta, many groups also offer a class or two each session to adults.

Courtney Bennett, the 17-year-old who was teaching Tuesday's class, said those adults are almost always beginners.

At the Wilson Family Y, aquatics director Chris Pinto said 12 adults signed up during the first session this summer. Their motivations included not wanting to pass on a fear of water to the kids; a desire for a low-impact, full-body exercise; and even concerns about being able to get to safety should something go wrong on an upcoming cruise.

Bennett said she prefers to teach eager pre-schoolers such as Quinn and Casey Holton, who had such a good time Monday that they tried to get back in the pool at the end of their first 45-minute lesson at the Brigham Swim Center. It takes a different approach to help adults get comfortable in the water, Bennett said.

"Adults are more stubborn," she said. "Most of the time I let them find what works for them."

But Chelsea Wheatley, who gives private lessons at Neptune Dive and Ski, said her teaching technique doesn't really change much for adults, other than maybe the words she uses while giving instructions.

"The first thing I work on is why they haven't learned how to swim by now," she said. "Normally it's because they had an accident as a younger adult or a child that just kind of instilled some kind of fear in them."

That was the case for Hunter, who said one of her cousins almost drowned her when she was 8 or 9 years old. This week, though, she's in the water and smiling, hoping that soon she'll be a swimmer.

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Places to learn

Here are some options for swim lessons in Augusta:

- Public lessons at Brigham Swim Center, Augusta Aquatics Center, and Fleming Pool: Eight classes of up to six people; $40 for Richmond County residents, $45 for nonresidents

- Family Y lessons at the Wilson, Downtown and Southside locations: Eight 45-minute classes in two weeks with up to seven people per class; $55 for members, $85 others

- Private lessons at Neptune Dive and Ski: Five 45-minute classes in one week with one to three people per class; $150