Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Terrible case in NSW a week or so ago when children watched their parents drown at a surf beach. There have been a huge number of drownings this and last year. Record numbers even. Drownings cause the highest rate of death for under five year olds.

I have almost drowned, twice. The first time I would have been about eight years old. I was at the Oakleigh swimming pool under the supervision of my grandparents, neither of who swam to my knowledge. I simply lost my balance and fell over backwards. I panicked and flailed my arms wildly while trying to regain my balance. I was going backwards and heading to the deep end of the pool where the water would be over my head. A man noticed me in trouble and stood me up, helped me out of the pool and took me to my grandparents. Seems so silly because I could swim.

The other time I was much older and in the surf at Woodside Beach in South Gippsland. Slowly I was being dragged out to sea and I was getting very tired fighting against the waves. I was starting to feel a bit panicky. Calm calm, I told myself. Remember, don't swim against the waves, swim with them and to the side. It was a decent walk back along the beach to where I had entered the water but by swimming nearly parallel to the beach, I came to some water that almost carried me in without much effort on my part. Just as well as I was exhausted.

If someone is a non swimmer, it is very dangerous to do anymore than just paddle in the water. In the past I would have said at surf beaches, but even our relatively calm Port Phillip Bay gets it share of victims. I am not sure if swimming is compulsory in our government schools as it used to be, but it damn well ought to be. There also needs to be plenty of warnings to overseas students who have never learnt to swim. Lastly, no matter how good your swimming skills are, you can still get caught out.


  1. Swimming is no longer compulsory - schools 'choose' to do it - and parents 'choose' to allow their kids to the lessons

    lessons consist of maybe 6 weeks of 1hr lessons - I would imagine more mucking around than actualy swimming
    My children can swim - we made sure they went to lessons and could swim - it may not protect them 100% - but it is a form of insurance.
    I can (could) swim - I did my bronze star TWICe - because I too young to complete the next stage of the course. I was lucky I grew up in Marysville and the Primary School and Pool were next door to each other.
    We lived at the pool - you wanted to find someone - they wer at the pool UNLESS other arrangements had been made.
    I think today that swimmign is no longer considered necessary - because computers and the like have taken over and physcial activity is on the decline - even something as gentle as swimming.

  2. Whereas once we had to complete each level of swimming prowess each year in swimming lessons through school, it became every 2nd year and then "awww, we let 'em progress at their own pace" hence parents are paying for swimming lessons, getting glowing reports on their sprog's efficiency in the water when in reality the kid can barely dog paddle 25 metres.
    When myself and a couple of other parents complained we were told we were 'pushing' our kids and 'trying to expect too much'.

  3. Andrew, as a child I spent my summers in pools - we had an above ground as did three neighbours in my street. We moved from pool to pool and then the public baths for a change. If you went visiting someone with a pool you were in it. My parents put a lot of emphasis on learning to swim.

    You did very well to work with the rip and escape! It wouldn't be easy to keep the fear under control.

    The only time I got into trouble was at a beach - dunked by a wave, lost a sense of which way was up in the sandy water, and a mouth full of salt water. The panic was instantaneous. Luckily, I wasn't far from shore and I could swim! I can't believe they don't have compulsory swimming at school anymore.

  4. The sea is deadly, especially the unexpected under-currents. Best to view it from the beach in my opinion, with an icecream in one hand and an alcoholic beverage in the other.

  5. I nearly drowned as a kid too, just once thankfully. I was in the kiddies pool and a big kid sat on me in the water and wouldn't let me up! Awful. To this day I have an irrational fear of people dunking me under the water.

    I spent way too many hours in pools & at the beach as a kid and am a good swimmer as a result. It's silly that they don't make kids learn these days. When we learned it was an outdoor non heated pool. We even had to learn how to swim with clothes on, in the event that we ever fell in fully clothed. Brrr.

  6. gosh Andrew, I am glad you got out of that undertow. what would our blogs be without you?

    and BRI - do you think choc ice goes with ale better than strawberry does?

    I am on the beach I grew up at and am a terrific swimmer.
    It's all the sunburns that have me wondering when the squamousness will start.

  7. After the tragedy last week, I was thinking about the delimma of jumping in to rescue a loved one in need. Obviously, in the heat of the moment, it's hardly a choice but there are now a bunch of kids who have lost BOTH parents.

  8. IAS, you can guess my thoughts on swimming not being compulsory. I wonder what we did at the pool that kept us so occupied, but it did hey.

    We too had an above ground one LiD. I was grown up and away from home the day it collapsed we my brother and sister in it. What a flood. I too can recall getting dumped on the sand by a wave. Where did the water go?

    The treacherous Irish Sea Brian. Respect.

    I hope you took some revenge Fen. Same here, always non heated. I don't remember the cold though. I am sook about cold water now though.

    The endless sunburn Ann. Starting to tell on me now. Be careful btw. You know what the old name for a beach near you was? Safety Beach had another name.

    AR, I too think of this, be it drowning or fire or assault, whatever. I am no hero. Too many die when trying to help. I think you need to not panic and act smart.

  9. Anonymous8:57 pm

    My kids do their lessons every year with the school. Before they went to school they also partook (hmmm my bad English) in lessons.
    Too important not to learn to swim. As you said, people can still get caught out in those rips. Cazzie!!!

  10. Hi Andrew,

    No swimming lessons? Gosh, school must be a doddle these days with no tedious learnings of any kind to be bothered with.

    What is it about now, World of Warcraft tournaments and Next Top Model contests?



  11. 'Safety Beach had another name'
    not when I left here back in 65 - there was no funny business other than Melbourne gangs using the beaches for their brawls, ie:

    "the Port boys are going to do the Pran boys on Dromana beach Saturday night"

  12. No surprise there Cazzie. I knew you would make sure yours could swim.

    Pants, in spite of great words from our leaders, they just ain't lernin to read and right. It came through a wee bit too late, but my other commenters would probably enjoy reading of Pants on boogie board.

    Shark Bay Ann. Be afraid. Gang violence in Melbourne in the sixties? Who would have thunk that?

  13. Glad you survived.

    It's terrifying. I've become a bit paranoid this week with all the drowning news. We're going to Hawaii in a couple of months, and I'm worried more than I have been in the past.

    The three of us know how to swim, but I don't think that's really enough.

    Yesterday I watched safety videos about rip tides and tried to teach Jack about them.

    Still. I'm scared. And then I also found out a box jellyfish invasion is due to happen when we're there.

  14. Dina, I have seen footage of Hawaii surf. I would stay out of it. And box jellyfish!!!

  15. oh Dina Dina - if you drop into a 50-foot wall at Waimea Bay I really do want to see pics.
    take care