As Memorial Day weekend arrives here in Malibu, thousands of parents and kids of all ages will descend upon the beaches to cool off and enjoy a fun day together. With the upcoming summer beckoning, being aware of those who might not know how to swim, and who might need help, is important.
Just ask Lori Armstrong. A Malibu resident since 1995, Armstrong has been teaching swimming lessons to youth and adults for more than 38 years. After a high school and college career as a springboard diver, Armstrong transferred her love of the pool by teaching hundreds of kids per year how to swim efficiently.
A typical day for Armstrong consists of instructing babies as young as eight months old to adults how to properly swim and not to fear water but rather embrace it.
The Malibu Times caught up with Armstrong, who shared some very important thoughts on the safety of swimming for this weekend and the summer season that lies ahead.
Describe your passion for swimming and your daily instruction to kids and adults.
The passion is to watch a child learn how to swim and reach their comfort level, gain new freedom and have confidence in the water. That’s why I do it. It’s a gift because I love doing it. It’s so worth it because the next day they show you what they learned and it’s fantastic. The rewards are huge. I always like to see the kids get to where their strokes are strong enough that they can go in and compete to make the junior lifeguard program one day.
How do you balance teaching young babies to adults?
For kids, it’s survival. At eight months you are learning to survive in the water. Once you are over the survival, you start to enjoy it and it becomes a way of life. As you get older, you forget how you even learned how to swim because it becomes natural. For adults, it’s a whole new world for them. Once they learn how to swim properly or comfortably, it becomes a way of exercise and relaxation.
What are some safety tips for parents?
1. Swim lessons—the earlier, the better for kids. It becomes natural to them. It’s like walking and crawling. If they learn to swim at a young age, they will never forget it. Every child should know how to swim for safety reasons.
2. Shower time—take your baby in the shower and have them get used to having water over their heads so the immersion in a pool is not so frightening. It takes the edge off of going underwater in the pool. It also helps them learn how to breathe with water coming over their heads.
3. Familiarities with water—take your kid in water when you have the chance—at hotels, community pools or private pools. Have fun with them and get them used to the water with you so it’s not a foreign exercise.
4. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)—every adult who owns a pool should know CPR. If you have people over, you are responsible. It’s your pool so you better learn CPR. It’s not a bad thing for the world to learn CPR and be able to resuscitate. Should something happen with a kid or even an adult at a pool and you are by yourself, make sure you stabilize the person first and then call 911. They will talk you through it. If you call 911 first, the person might have already drowned.
5. Parental supervision—don’t ever take your eyes off your kids. You can turn your head for one second to talk to someone and they could fall in the water and you would have no idea.
6. Pools at home—close your pool gates at all times. Have your pool gated and protected. Watch your kids at all times if they are near the pool. Be aware of your surroundings.
7. At the beach—make sure you never leave a young kid alone. They can run really fast into the water and get caught up with a wave or riptide. They are in trouble if they don’t know how to swim. If someone older is in trouble, unless you are certified, don’t try to save someone by yourself. Don’t ignore them but be careful. Keep your eye on the person and do what you can. Alert the lifeguard. If you have a surfboard out there, have them grab that. Just don’t get too close to a drowning person because panic sets in and they could end up hurting you as well.