Beginning Series: Learning to Play

Location: Jersey Shore

Date: A few weeks ago

Water Temp: Arctic

Goal: Learn to surf

Personal Status: Attempting to wiggle into my wetsuit before morning coffee.  Not a pretty sight.


My boyfriend (lets call him “B”) was explaining wave patterns, throwing around terms like “waist-high” and “shoulder-high” to describe the sight in front of us…… and like any good student,  I wasn’t listening, I was busy imagining a version of my watery death.

Where was my nice calm water?

Regardless, I am not one to back down from a challenge/fight/body of water…..

In true “I-can-do-this!” form,  I grabbed that surfboard and clumsily made my way out past that area where the waves break (there is a name for that…B told me….I wasn’t listening….) Once out in the ocean, I promptly wrapped myself around B’s arm and screamed.

“Get me back to shore RIGHT NOW!”

Swimming is my life.  How could this happen?

The Answer?  Fear.

I have spent years developing my skills as a swimmer and coach.  I’ve competed in open water.  I have devoted my life to the sport of swimming.  What happened that morning provided a powerful insight into the unique challenges of the new adult swimmer.

Have you ever watched children play in the ocean?  They are fearless in their pursuit of fun.  It is through play that they learn how to ride out the waves and work with, rather then against, the water.

If I was going to learn how to surf, I was going to have to learn how to play in the water.

And, for the rest of that day, that is exactly what B taught me (sans surf board).  We rolled in the waves, dove under and jumped over them.  I let the waves beat me up and started to learn the language of non-chlorinated water.

Motto of the Story:  Play first, Technique second.

I now apply this lesson to all of my swimming courses. Together, we spend time in the deep end, acknowledging fears and learning to trust the water.  We encourage each other and we don’t move on until everyone is smiling.

After all, swimming without stress and fear is WAY easier.  Even in the ocean.  Trust me.

Keep on swimming,

Coach Meg

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