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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 7 (November 1, 1928)

The Call of the Sea — Big Surf and How to Master It

page 22

The Call of the Sea
Big Surf and How to Master It

“I saw him beat the surges under him,
And ride upon their backs; he trod the water,
Whose enmity he flung aside, and breasted
The surge most swol'n that met him.”-Shakespeare.

At the time of writing the summer is fast approaching, and our beaches are already drawing swimmers, surfers and sun-bathers in large numbers. The call of the sea and the surf carries far. And what can surpass it? Whether we view it from the point of view of health, recreation or sport, or mere pastime, the surf is supreme! But, you ask, is it safe? It is more safe than crossing a city street these days. Safer than playing football or even cricket. Safe not only for men and women, but for children. Well, what need is there for life saving clubs? I have nothing but admiration for those who join such clubs, and any criticism I may have to offer will be of a constructive nature.

The splendid beach at Warrington, near Dunedin.

The splendid beach at Warrington, near Dunedin.

Try to estimate what a city like Sydney, for instance, owes to its surf clubs, ay, and its life savers. How often does the foolhardiness of the average man bathing on our beaches place not only himself, but those in his vicinity, in danger of becoming shark bait? How often do we hear of thrilling rescues by life-saving teams? The men comprising these teams are not all fools or cranks who want to see just how far they can go out into the sea. There are other reasons why even the most careful swimmers sometimes find themselves well out in the danger zone, beyond the breakers. And sometimes persons who cannot swim a stroke suddenly realise they are in a like predicament. Why this is so we will explain later. The point, for the moment, is, that they are there, and cannot get back by their own unaided efforts. Lucky for them if the life-savers are at hand to bring them safe ashore. Lucky, too, that the life-savers have grown so expert that only in the most exceptional cases do they fail to effect a complete rescue. Their success in this respect is shown by the very small percentage of drowning accidents reported from our many crowded beaches.

These rescues, however, and similar incidents associated with surf bathing emphasise the fact that there are still many persons, young and old, who cannot swim. Scarcely a day passes that my help is not solicited by some person anxious to learn to swim, and, almost in the same breath as the request is made there is the exclamation: “I know I shall never be able to learn!” Despite his want of faith (which, in so many cases in life, is the greatest obstacle to success), I take the doubting one in hand, and, lo, almost before he realises it, he is swimming for all he is worth! “So easy as that!” you exclaim. It is just because it is so easy that it is so difficult. Let me explain; and that my methods are correct methods, is demonstrated by the fact that I have not yet had one failure. There is no secret science about it. It is all so simple that any swimmer may teach any non-swimmer to swim. Did you ever think that it was queer that man was the only animal that has to learn to swim? Why? He is the only animal who is afraid of what might happen.

The first thing then a teacher of swimming has to do is to dispel his pupil's fear, to imbue him with confidence not only in his teacher, but in himself. One of my pupils and I go down to the beach to have a dip. While changing into our bathing costumes, I look him over, and tell him that he is built for the game all right. The remark gives him confidence, and he is half page 23 a swimmer already. I chat cheerfully with him as we enter the water together-the subject anything but swimming. When waist deep I take up a position about six feet in front of my companion and tell him to swim up to me. If he hesitates, I point out that we are only waist deep and can stand up if need be, at any time, assuring him also that he can swim the short distance between us almost without an effort. And, almost invariably, he does. I do not show him any particular stroke to use, but tell him just to swim and to keep his mouth shut in the process. In very few cases has a learner failed to reach me at the first attempt. I pay no attention to the stroke he uses; nor does it matter, for there is no proper learner's stroke. Even should he get only half way he has made a beginning. He can swim! I emphasise that, and next time he swims further, and so on, improving every time he tries, until, self reliance fully attained, he becomes a capable swimmer.

All mechanical “aids” to swimming, such a corks, life buoys, water wings, belts, etc., are a hindrance, not a help, and serve only to impress on the pupil that he cannot swim. If you want to be a swimmer, do not have anything to do with them. If you want to instruct others successfully, warn them against their use. If the reader who cannot swim
A Children'S Outing. The beach at Warrington, Dunedin, where thousands of people, young and old, experience the delights of surfbathing every year.

A Children'S Outing.
The beach at Warrington, Dunedin, where thousands of people, young and old, experience the delights of surfbathing every year.

follows the lines herein laid down, he will find that, after a few lessons, he will make rapid progress, and very soon arrive at the stage when he may be initiated into the mysteries of the different strokes. But the teacher's first lesson is to make his pupil understand that he can swim.

(to be continued.)

An Engineer's Coast

Here's health to the girl who can dance like a dream,
And the girl who can pound the piano,
A health to the girl who writes verse by the ream
Or toys with high C in soprano.
To the girl who can talk and the girl who does not,
To the saint and the sweet little sinner—
But here's to the cleverest girl of the lot—
The girl who can cook a good dinner.