1998/06/20 - Stewart French

I've discovered something important about swimming with my nieces and my friends kids. How do you get a kid to stop being afraid of the water and go on under, open their eyes, and swim around down there? The answer is an underwater camera. I bought one of those Kodak disposable underwater cameras two pool-parties ago to experiment with underwater pictures. I was playing in the pool with these kids ages 6-11 when I dug this thing out to get some pictures. These kids went crazy. Some wanted to take the pictures , others wanted to have pictures taken of them. All of them abandoned their fear of the water so they could try out this camera thing. I gathered them around and showed them how to use it, how they had to hold their breath and go underwater, hold their eyes open, stay down there and frame the picture , then snap it off. All that before they surfaced. And, most wanted to take pictures of people diving into the pool , so they had to go underwater in the deep end and stay down there for a long time while the diver climbed up on the board, ran and bounced and dived . It was great. The only real problem any of them had was staying underwater. We got a few pictures that looked like this , but most were really good. They were all so boyant that they _couldn't_ stay underwater for any length of time! They would float to the surface. Here are a few pictures: Anne, Tony, Kira, Brandi.

I've been practicing hyperventilating , then blowing all the air out of my lungs (I mean _all_ of it!), and dropping to the bottom of the deep end . I can lay flat on my back on the bottom in the deep end and stay there for 15-30 seconds before the lack of oxygen forces me back up. It's a real rush looking up through 8 feet of water at the surface, watching people swim past , the sun streaming through the surface waves, trees swaying up there. It's very quiet at the bottom of a pool.

I decided to teach my nieces how to do this. So I showed them how to hyperventilate and blow all the air out of their lungs. But when they submerged they were only able to go about 4 feet down and they'd stick there floating in the water. hmmmm... Seems they are more boyant than I am. So we decided that they needed something to help them descend to the bottom. We looked around and found some bricks. The 11 year old could use one brick and it would take her to the bottom. The 9 year old took two bricks. She was very excited and asked me to find some rope so we could tie the bricks to her ankles! It was at this point that I held some brick-safety training. I explained to them that tying bricks to their ankles wasn't such a good idea. And holding them in their hands also had some bad effects. I showed them how to carefully lay the bricks down on the bottom, and how to retrieve one brick at a time from the bottom. Turns out the 9 year old can swim pretty good carrying a single brick around. It's a bit heavy for the less boyant 11 year old.

Once the training session was over I let them go for it and they both sank like a stone to the bottom and laid down there looking up while I took some pictures of them. They were very excited about staying down as long as possible. Now look closer at this picture and notice the feet holding the brick. Hmmm....

After that got old we found that they could now swim the length of the pool underwater without much effort at all. They had learned how to hyperventilate and to feel comfortable underwater and had no problem staying under for long periods.

Way cool.

(Of course, a good water pistol fight is fun too!)