What does it mean when someone says they can't swim?
June 22, 2006 4:06 PM   Subscribe

What does it mean when someone says they can't swim?

As a swimmer, I find it hard to imagine what it would be like not to be able to swim. It seems so easy: push down and you'll stay up. So what happens when non-swimming adults go into water? Do they just drown? Or do they figure it out naturally?

Disabilities and phobias aside, exactly how bad at swimming is someone who's never been taught? Do adults need to be taught?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (55 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It generally means a) they're afraid of water, or b) their motions at staying afloat would be so ineffectual, they'd probably just contribute towards drowning.

But I see what you're saying - it seems that at least doggy paddling would be almost instinctual.
posted by muddgirl at 4:12 PM on June 22, 2006

I can swim, but if I couldn't, I'd just sink. I'm unlucky enough to have a body which is denser than water, which I'm told is pretty unusual, though I can't be the only one.
posted by Mwongozi at 4:13 PM on June 22, 2006

Most people who say they can't swim really mean they're scared to be in the water. Doggy paddling is instinctive, but only if you don't panic.
posted by Nelson at 4:14 PM on June 22, 2006

More than 10 years ago, my friends were at a work party. (I wasn't there.) Someone joked about throwing one of the girls into the pool. She shrieked and said she couldn't swim. No one believed her and she was laughing and joking. Someone threw her in. She thrashed for a moment, took in too much water, and sank to the bottom. Suddenly, people realized that she really couldn't swim. So some guys dove in and dragged her out. She didn't need CPR, but she was pretty shaken. I think they took her to a walk-in clinic to make sure she was going to be okay. She swallowed a lot of water and she was scared.

As a result of that incident, one of my other friends came forward and admitted she also couldn't swim. Both of them pledged to take lessons, saying that they were from Asian families and that swimming wasn't part of their culture. I don't know if that is true, since I know lots of Asian people who can swim. Anyway, they never did take lessons and are now in their 30s and unable to swim.

My grandmother also never learned to swim.
posted by acoutu at 4:14 PM on June 22, 2006

To literally answer your question:

When some people say they can't swim, they really mean they can't swim. So yes, they would drown, if the water was deep enough and there was no one there to help them. I think it's possible to "figure it out naturally" but not if you were pushed or fell in unexpectedly, and unfortunately this is the only way most adults who really can't swim end up in the water.

Sometimes I say I can't swim, but what I really mean is that I can't swim well. I kind of do my own thing. I can pull off a slow breaststroke and random strokes swimming underwater, or if it is shallow enough bouncing up and down, pushing off from the bottom of the pool.

But I can't keep up crawl for longer than I can hold my breath, because I was never taught how to do to the stroke properly -- how to time breathing so that you don't have to stop completely to avoid getting a mouthful of water. Forget about butterfly or backstroke. I also don't know how to dive. In other words, I'm not about to drown, but I'm also not about to swim really seriously or save any one's life. I also still get pretty nervous being in boats that could tip over, which I think would change if I could do crawl/freestyle more efficiently.
posted by puffin at 4:16 PM on June 22, 2006

When I say I can't swim, I mean that yeah, I can float and doggy paddle, but I'm still going to be really angry when you push me into the deep end because staying above water os a stuggle for me.
posted by Amanda B at 4:18 PM on June 22, 2006

it seems that at least doggy paddling would be almost instinctual

You would think, although I've never really been able to doggy paddle. I find treading water by waving around my arms and my legs to be more instinctual, but like everyone has said you probably wouldn't figure this out in a moment of panic.
posted by puffin at 4:18 PM on June 22, 2006

When I told people that I couldn't swim (something I rectified by taking lessons not long ago) it meant not that I was incapable of moving in the water, but that I was incredibly ineffectual at it.

I'm still pretty ineffectual at it, so now I say I can't swim very well. Or for very long (that is probably related to the fact that I can't do it well).
posted by synecdoche at 4:19 PM on June 22, 2006

If you didn't know what to do with your body to keep your head above water, you'd be scared of water too.
posted by raedyn at 4:19 PM on June 22, 2006

I agree with "can't swim" meaning "can't swim effectively." I get tangled up and tire myself out very easily. I think there's definitely a difference between "staying afloat/staying afloat and moving forward" and actual swimming. I mean, as a swimmer, wouldn't you agree there's (non-instinctive) technique involved? (As an analogy, most people need to "learn how" to run, too.)
posted by kelseyq at 4:20 PM on June 22, 2006

I can swim enough to play around in a pool. I can even do a couple of laps, if you don't pay attention to my technique. I can jump off a diving board and swim to the side.

However...I tell people I'm not a good swimmer, or that I can't swim, because I can't go underwater without holding my nose, I hate opening my eyes underwater, I don't float very well, and I absolutely cannot tread water.
posted by ArsncHeart at 4:27 PM on June 22, 2006

When I say I can't swim, I mean that I don't know how to apply the techniques of breast stroke or back stroke to bring myself from one end of a pool to another. I won't drown if you throw me in a pool, as I am capable of doggy paddling/flailing about to keep my head above water, but I really have no efficient or even practical way of getting myself from one end of the pool to the other.
posted by MeetMegan at 4:28 PM on June 22, 2006

As a former swim instructor, "can't swim" can definitely mean can't swim at all, eg. "I have no way to effectively keep my head above water, because I don't know what way I'm supposed to move my arms and legs." To some people it's instinctive, to others not at all.
posted by inigo2 at 4:30 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

What kills people in the water is panic. They don't realize that tensing up and thrashing around makes them sink. If you want to teach someone to swim, teach them how to trust the fact that they'll float (if they're VERY skinny, they may need full lungs to float.)

I started to panic once as a kid in the water... my father was there and grabbed me immediately, but I probably would have drowned without assistance. When you're flailing, you're actively pushing yourself under the water, as likely as not.

The panic happens because there's nothing solid to push against. For someone who hasn't spent any time in the water, this is very scary. You feel completely out of control. When it happened to me, I had been swimming for a year or more, and STILL lost it.
posted by Malor at 4:38 PM on June 22, 2006

Doggy-paddling is not swimming, its "a way to keep from drowning".
Swimming in my mind means cleanly cutting through the water, being able to duck your head and cruise along the bottom of a pool, perhaps being able to jump into the water and then recover.

"I can't swim" means just that in my mind. Just because you can stop yourself from drowning doesn't mean you can swim.

From my experience(as the only pool owning family in the neighborhood), most adults need to be taught explicitly the motions of swimming, whereas most kids tend to learn it through osmosis.

Also, you need to make a distinction between "swimming" and "Swimming".
For example, I think I swim pretty well having grown up doing it. But my swim-team wife thinks I'm horrible since I don't put "that elbow there" and "breath on this stroke" etc.
posted by madajb at 4:43 PM on June 22, 2006

I used to have swimming lessons. But I still can't swim very well. I can't float unless I have my head under the water - and even then I need goggles or I go blind.

During swim class (I was about 8-9 ish) one of the first few lessons was to dive into a 5 meter pool. I had barely managed to even float very well (with a floater!) and was scared as hell, but we all had to do it. (The other kids were gung-ho) I held on to my floater, jumped in - and started to panic. I don't remember anything else except that I was flailing like crazy, felt very scared, and needed to be fished out of the pool.

That incident gave me a strong fear of water. I'm ok with water (I actually like being in pools) but only up to just above my head. Diving pools and seas and oceans and such? Horrid. I can't even go snorkelling because I'd freak out.

So yeah, I don't think I can swim.
posted by divabat at 4:54 PM on June 22, 2006

I swam like a fish as a youngster, then was forced out of the water for many years due to a health condition. Since getting the all-clear, I've taken Swimming 101 many times. It never takes. Fear/dislike isn't a factor. I enjoy the water, would love to be able to at least swim in a pool, and have been told by instructors that the muscles are paddling/kicking correctly when using assistive gear. Yet for some reason my body has never (re)-mastered the art of floating. No float; no swim.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:00 PM on June 22, 2006

After taking three half-hour lessons in college, I learned to swim. I say I can swim by which I mean I can get from one end of the pool to another via crawling. I can't float, or tread water, or doggy paddle (I have tried a couple of times to no avail). Before I learned to crawl, I would say I can't swim by which I meant I can't swim AT ALL. Hence now I say I can swim even though I'm a rather pathetic swimmer.

As far as it seeming natural or instinctive goes, my experience upon "getting it" reminded me of how it felt when I finally learned to ride a bike. It felt like the various parts of the body just clicked into position and once my body figured out how to coordinate itself, it could not help but assume that state of coordination whenever in water.
posted by crack at 5:00 PM on June 22, 2006

I live in Hawaii and I can't swim. Like others already said here, I can float and doggy paddle, but any attempt from me to do a backstroke or glide gracefully through the water results in a lot of thrashing about. Strangely enough, I also "can't" hold my breath underwater without holding my nose closed..which probably hinders my swimming as well.

(by the way I like your username. makes me want to yell "unless you've got poooooower!" and shriek hysterically.)
posted by killjoy at 5:03 PM on June 22, 2006

I swam a lot as a skinny little kid. Then after decades of dry land and the acquisition of a big belly, I jumped in one day and found that, yes, I more or less remembered the rules, but my whole sense of balance and the confidence in the relationship between my body and the water was completely gone. I tried to float on my back the way I used to, and found myself sinking. No doubt I could learn it all again, but I haven't been in the water since. Yes, I didn't drown, but what I was doing wasn't swimming.

Being from Kansas (landlocked), I know a lot of people who can't swim. Swimming, while something that a lot of people learn to do in pools and lakes, is not a primary recreational activity the way it is in coastal areas.

acoutu's story horrified me. What a bunch of idiots. If someone says 'I can't swim,' and you throw them in the water, you should be beaten to death on the spot, even if they survive. The fact that the anecdote ends with her being 'shaken,' as opposed to resolving never to speak to any of them again, is remarkable to me.
posted by bingo at 5:20 PM on June 22, 2006

I have never learned to swim. I can float and doggy paddle, but if a shark ate my boat, I would definitely need a part of the hull to use as a kickboard to get to shore. When I say I can't swim, I mean I can't do laps or that little flippy thing at the end of a lane, or confidently watch over a child near a pool or large body of water. I wish I could swim -- I hate to sweat so swimming would be an exercise I could get behind.
posted by macadamiaranch at 5:31 PM on June 22, 2006

I know what to do if I'm in the water. I also know that without assistance, I still wouldn't last very long.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:49 PM on June 22, 2006

When my girlfriend says she can't swim she means she cant swim effectively. She can doggy-paddle and do a violent, thrashing approxamtion of a breast stroke, but that's all, and neither would do her any good if she was in any environment other than a pool.

I can't imagine not being able to even doggy-paddle. To my mind that's like not being able to read.
posted by lekvar at 5:52 PM on June 22, 2006

I don't remember learning how to swim. I've just always been able to do it. From pictures, I seem to have learned when I was two or so. I have never forgotten, even with years in between. When I trained for a triathalon some years after having swum last, I still had it. I had to learn how to be efficient to swim long distances, but it does seem instinctual.

I think it depends when you learn. If you learn at a very, very early age, you never lose it. If you learn even a little later, you may lose it.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:55 PM on June 22, 2006

If you found yourself under a 25-foot mountain of teeming garden spiders, would it be instinctual to just walk out of it, keeping your mouth and eyes closed? I for one would probably tear my own head off in panic.

Some people feel that way about being dropped into water. Let's face it, when a human body enters water, it sinks in just about up to the head. Is is difficult to imagine that someone would manage to inhale water while panicking from 1) lack of contact with the floor - something which really does not happen often on land 2) sudden wetness 3) perhaps deadly cold 4) potential bad taste in the mouth 5) potential currents rocking them around 6) potential water in the eyes making vision difficult 7) a lifetime of watching shark-attack movies?

No, it's not hard to imagine. You may have pleasant associations from a lifetime of enjoying swimming, as I do. But someone else, for whom the water is a great unknown, panic is not difficult to imagine.
posted by scarabic at 6:22 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

When I say "I can't swim" I mean that I have never learned to swim. I may be able to swim instinctively or something, but since I have been in a pool exactly once, it seems safer (not to mention shorter) to tell people "I can't swim" than to tell them "I may well be able to swim if the need arises, but I've never tested it."
posted by kindall at 6:34 PM on June 22, 2006

I cannot tread water or can't sustain a forward motion of anykind (doggy or otherwise) for anything more than a couple of body lengths. I was never taught formally and have just tried to figure things out for myself in shallow hotel pools.

I usually mark being able to swim vs. being able to swim well by whether or not someone can tread water.
posted by megamanwich at 6:54 PM on June 22, 2006

I've only met one person who couldn't swim, and she was so anxious about the water she wouldn't get to a point where the water was above her belly button. She also was very scared of putting her face in the water or ducking into the water so that it would rise above her shoulders.

I think her lack of ability to swim was fed by hear fear of water, and vice versa. If you can't relax in the water, it's very hard to swim.

As a child I came close to drowning, however I've never lost my fear of the water.

I think I would define swimming as being able to stay afloat for prolonged periods, and move from place to place efficiently.
posted by tomble at 7:48 PM on June 22, 2006

I can't swim and when I say that, I mean that I can float for limited amounts of time in shallow water with my nose plugged, and do a very awkward doggy paddle, but I could not swim to save my life, if I were tossed in the water as stated above, I would be horrified. I almost drowned in the ocean when I was 10 years old.

People seem to be horrified to know that I can't swim well enough to save my life. Frankly, I'm perfectly okay with not knowing how to swim. I am not regularly in those types of situations. I figure if I'm suddenly tossed into the water a la Castaway, I'd be fucked anyway and would probably die of something else besides drowning.
posted by cajo at 7:49 PM on June 22, 2006

There is a lot of stuff going on at once when you find yourself in the water. In no particular order, you have to:

-not freak out,
-know when to breathe and when not to inhale water,
-float without doing much,
-manage to keep yourself up if you can't float,
-propel yourself in a specific direction.

My parents started me in swimming classes (at the YMCA) when I was 6 months old. My understanding was that we started out by covering the first two tasks, which are mostly instinctive (freaking out and breathing). Then we moved on to floating - which takes a lot of skill to do properly. After that, we started in on the actual "swimming." Of course, I spent the rest of my formative years doing all that - I would not expect an adult to pick much up in only a few classes. I think that everybody should at least take a few classes to gain some confidence, and all children should start learning at a young age.
posted by MrZero at 8:33 PM on June 22, 2006

Treading water seems like such a simple thing to learn.

Why is it that almost all mamals can instinctually swim but humans can not?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 8:42 PM on June 22, 2006

I tell people I'm not a good swimmer, or that I can't swim, because I can't go underwater without holding my nose, I hate opening my eyes underwater, I don't float very well, and I absolutely cannot tread water.

I'm the same way, minus treading water. When I say "I can't swim," I don't mean that I'll drown when I hit the water, just that I'm not comfortable in it and don't know how to do much.

If you sat a complete non-musician down at a piano, he'd still be able to hit the keys; it just probably wouldn't sound very good. He could probably still pick out a scale given enough time, though.
posted by danb at 8:48 PM on June 22, 2006

People who really can't swim are basically vertical in the water. The classic sign of drowning is the "climbing the ladder" approach non-swimmers use to try and extricate themselves from the water. Basically the body remains vertical and the arms move up and down, with lots of splashing and little forward momentum. Eventually they would suck in too much water, tire, and drown. In lifeguard training, they train you to rescue people flailing in a vertical posture.

To demonstrate this principle, take a puppy that has never learned how to swim to a swimming hole with some labrador retrievers swimming. Then throw the puppy in the water about 3 feet from the shore (prepare to rescue him!) and compare the swimming techniques. In my case, the non-swimmer pug puppy was essentially vertical with paws clawing up and down with a lot of useless splashing, while the labs lean forward and mellowly doggy paddle the arms in mellow forward circles under the water. The pug made it out without rescue but he despises swimming.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:50 PM on June 22, 2006

If one is calm, yeah, doggie paddle is kind of natural. But if you get thrown in unexpectedly and don't have time to figure that out before you catch a mouthful of water and panic, and you get what acoutu reported. It doesn't mean the person is afraid of the water or really aren't capable of swimming; it means they are not familiar enough to feel comfortable in the water.

Think of it this way: If you drive, you do so naturally after a while. Take someone who has never driven before and throw him or her into the driver's seat while the car is doing 60 miles an hour, and see whether he or she can control the car, or if his or her actions cause an accident. Throwing the person into this situation really isn't fair to him or her. It doesn't imply fear of driving or that the person is incapable of driving; it just means that the person has not been properly instructed on how to handle that environment.
posted by Doohickie at 9:09 PM on June 22, 2006

puppy was essentially vertical with paws clawing up and down with a lot of useless splashing

The first time my lab puppy jumped into the water, she did the same thing. Took her several tries before she either seemed to figure it out herself or observed other dogs doing it right, and now she's fine. So, even some water dogs have to learn.
posted by frogan at 10:36 PM on June 22, 2006

I can't swim. I hate the feeling of not having something solid underneath my feet and hate getting water in my face. I could likely save my own life if I were thrown in the deep end with some form of floating/thrashing about, but I'd be very uncomfortable.

acoutu: That story horrified me. I was at a pool party once and was wading in the shallow end. Some guys dragged me past the magic line that separates "hey this whole wading thing is fun" from "OH GOD DEEP END. DANGER. DEATH IS IMMINENT." They too thought it was some kind of joke that I couldn't swim. Luckily my boyfriend at the time saved me and those guys felt pretty bad when I hyperventilated for a while. The guys that threw your friend in should be beaten soundly.
posted by chiababe at 12:24 AM on June 23, 2006

I'm unlucky enough to have a body which is denser than water, which I'm told is pretty unusual, though I can't be the only one.

Wow. People kept telling me to "just do nothing and float" when they tried to teach me how to swim. That just didn't work for me.
I figured that my body must for some obscure reason lack the ability to float in water. Now I know it's true. Thanks!
posted by bloo at 2:01 AM on June 23, 2006

When I say I "can't swim," I mean that rather literally -- I sink like a stone. I could swim some when I was younger, though...

I have a restrictive chest-wall condition wherein the cartilage surrounding my sternum fused with bone at an early age -- resulting not only in a total lack of elasticity in my ribcage (try breathing without moving your chest at all), but also in my upper ribcage not properly scaling with me as I grew up. Thankfully, you wouldn't know it to look at me, as I am naturally of slight build and otherwise fairly healthy.

Still, after fully growing into the condition, I only have about 16-18% of normal lung capacity due to the restriction. Most sustained exercise is out of the picture. Not only can I not swim, but if I was being chased by a starving lion across the African savannah, I would make a rather expedient and tasty morsel.

With regards to swimming specifically, I simply can't intake enough air to achieve buoyancy. Aditionally, I can't hold my breath for more than about 15 seconds. Deep water for me is drowning.

When I say I can't swim, people had better listen. Unfortunately, they never do. Just about a month ago, in fact, I had people threatening to throw me in at a BBQ.
posted by kaseijin at 2:24 AM on June 23, 2006

Addendum: I know the OP said, "disabilities...aside," but this is one that's not really visible -- so I feel it's rather pertinent.

I mean, nobody argues with somebody in a wheelchair when they say they can't swim, but I always get the "sure you can, don't be so timid!"...when the truth is I'm no better at it than somebody who has no use of their legs. Your lungs are pretty important in the water.

You never know exactly why somebody says they can't swim. Just take it at face value that they can't.
posted by kaseijin at 2:38 AM on June 23, 2006

People who say they can't swim should be assumed to be likely to die if they enter deep water. Any other assumption is criminally stupid.

I taught my wife to swim. She had doggy-paddling, and a kind of ineffectual breast stroke, but would not have survived if dropped 100 meters offshore. Now we're teaching our daughter to swim. there's nothing instinctive about it (although I have heard that newborn babies do well in water.)

Floating is not something most, if any people can do instinctively. It still takes a certain amount of conscious effort for me to float - staying on my back, keeping some air in my lungs, etc. I cannot fall asleep while floating - I'd get a load of water down my throat if I did.

Please, if someone says they can't swim, believe them.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:17 AM on June 23, 2006

So, as a one-time swimming instructor, let me confirm what a couple of people have said: not everyone floats. It's not some wierd, rare condition. Floating isn't easy. Only half of me floats - my legs always, always sink.

What I don't understand is why people wouldn't take adult lessons to learn. I mean, you don't have to be a big swimmer or anything, but it seems like a personal saftey thing at the least. Seems like knowing to swim would be more important than, say, knowing how to drive a stick shift.
posted by GuyZero at 6:29 AM on June 23, 2006

GuyZero, a lot of the people on the planet do not have access to that instruction, or even enough water to apply it. My wife grew up in Beijing, where (at least back then) swimming was not something there were a lot of facilities for. Swimming in the moat around the Forbidden City, or in Kunming Lake would be, um - frowned on. If she had not moved here, where pretty much every community has a public pool, and many residence complexes have their own, she might still be a non-swimmer.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:52 AM on June 23, 2006

Fair enough. I sort of meant people "around here" as in Canadians and Americans, which I didn't say. Certainly not everyone in the world has the resources to pursue hobbies and leisure activities. But if you're wealthy enough to have friends or neighbours with pools in their yards, I think it would be worth the time to learn how to swim, at least a little bit.
posted by GuyZero at 7:02 AM on June 23, 2006

Seems like knowing to swim would be more important than, say, knowing how to drive a stick shift.

Haha! I knew I made one of the right choices in life.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:04 AM on June 23, 2006

I dunno, GuyZero. Some people (ie, very thin, densly muscled people) sink. Most everyone's legs sink. But the vast majority of people, if they just relax will float well enough to keep their heads above water. (I don't mean to make a big argument, but in a thread full of people freaked out by water, pointing out that most people, if relaxed, will not sink seems helpful.)

Also, Kirth, I saw somewhere a study that claims swimming is instinctive/easy to learn when you are little no matter who you are. It starts at newbowns, peaks around 3 or 4 and then goes back down. So to say it isn't instictive is only somewhat true.

Also, a few points if anyone who can't swim (well) is still reading: to keep the water from going up your nose, blow out; to tread water, move your arms back and forth; kick with a smaller amplitude than you think.
posted by dame at 7:18 AM on June 23, 2006

Just this week in Columbus (and it seems like virtually every week) we had another incident of a 40 year old man who tired to rescue 2 boys in a relatively slow moving river and ended up drowning himself. It boggles the mind.

Yes, I understand how some people have fear of water, but this fear can kill you. You really should learn how to survive in the water.
posted by cptnrandy at 7:21 AM on June 23, 2006

Yeah, around here too: It appears the nanny died trying to save boy who loved the pool. It's especially sad considering how simple it would have been to prevent.
posted by GuyZero at 7:51 AM on June 23, 2006

Also, a few points if anyone who can't swim (well) is still reading: to keep the water from going up your nose, blow out;

Never worked for me. I've tried thousands of times, heard this advice thousands of times, and I always get water up my nose. So I usually don't go under water completely without noseplugs.
posted by agregoli at 8:51 AM on June 23, 2006

Then you aren't doing it right or you're hypersensitive to the tiny amount of water that may, in fact, find its way into there. If you blow out, you don't get water up your nose--that's just physics.
posted by dame at 10:07 AM on June 23, 2006

Operator error, eh?

Fear of water doesn't kill people. Not being able to swim well enough to survive a particular situation does. The drowned would-be rescuers are cases in point. So are the strong swimmers who succumb at a rate of about one a year while swimming laps across Walden Pond. The particular water situation that may kill you varies with your strength and swimming ability, sure, and it's a good idea to know how to swim. But it also varies with things beyond your control, and things you don't forsee, like cramps.

And it's not just thin people who sink. My family runs to big legs, and legs, as noted, are denser than water. I have to work at floating, by controlling my breathing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:50 AM on June 23, 2006

Even if your legs sink the rest of you should float.

And fear of water does kill people. Even people who might be able to manage can freak out and drown (see esp. rip tides). Not to mention, fear of water keeps people from learning, which puts other, stronger swimmers in danger.
posted by dame at 11:27 AM on June 23, 2006

I can't swim and never have been able to even though my mother was a lifeguard and I took swimming lessons as a child. My mother likes to tell the story of how when my brother was 4 weeks old she took him to the pool and threw him in. He went under the water, swam over to her and she grabbed him and pulled him up. Four years later she did the exact same thing to my other brother and all was well. When she did it to me when I was a couple of months old, she claims I immediately started sinking to the bottom even though I was making movements and putting out an effort. She said I loved being in the water and showed no fear at all but that I was just a terrible "swimmer" from the beginning. She didn't tell me this story until I was 16 and asked her why I couldn't swim.

If I was thrown into a lake or deep pool I would probably drown because I wouldn't be able to tread water for any length of time. I also can't seem to go underwater without holding my nose or it results in me sucking in water. I've tried the blowing out thing too and it doesn't work for me either.

However, in my case "can't swim" doesn't equate to being afraid of water. I lived in Florida for over a year and went into my pool for at least 30 minutes every day. I would put on goggles, walk around, dip my head under water and touch the bottom, do exercises, chase the kids, etc. I just loved being in the water and yet with much practice, still didn't learn to actually swim. I honestly believe it is just instinctual in some people, and in my case, not.
posted by Ugh at 12:45 PM on June 23, 2006

Excellent answers. Thanks everybody.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:44 PM on June 23, 2006

I'm not afraid of the water- far from it. I love boats, and to wade. I find aquatic life interesting. I simply do not know how to move my body properly. I don't see it being any more instintive than riding a bike- it seems obvious, but you'd never know if you weren't taught.
posted by spaltavian at 8:22 PM on August 17, 2006

Well, I just realised months later that I wrote`I never lost my fear of the water'.

I really meant `never lost my love of the water' after a near drowning experience.
posted by tomble at 8:58 PM on November 23, 2006

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