http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8978625612758049371 What: Safely conquer your water fears with Paul Lennon
When: Call or e-mail for information. Here’s Paul’s site: BeAFish.com
A million years ago I was a waitress and Paul Lennon was one of my regular customers. Every Sunday, he and a large group of equally friendly people would grab a table in my section. I slowly got to know them over iced tea refills, discovering that Paul was a swim instructor and they were all his students. They seemed strangely close for a swim class, and I soon found out why. Paul Lennon specializes in helping adults who are terrified of the water (adult aquaphobia), and watching his students interact with him I realized he was clearly very good at his job. These people had been set free from something, and when they talked about their classes, they were beaming.
“Aquaphobia can usually be traced to a single incident in a person’s life in which he or she panicked in the water. Tales of personal horror range from being tossed into the deep end of a pool as a child to surviving the sinking of a seagoing vessel as an adult. Moreover, adults who can’t swim typically have at least one parent with aquaphobia, and they may have even taken traditional swimming lessons as a child but for whatever reason were never comfortable in water. Now, many of them are embarrassed.
“People have difficulties adjusting physiologically or psychologically to the weightless environment of water, but they hide it and make excuses to stay out of the water,” says Paul Lennon, founder and owner of the Adult Aquaphobia Swim Center in Glendale, Calif. Founded in 1979 as the Aquatic Development Clinic, the center was considered the first school of its kind in the United States. “Like the fear of heights, the fear of depths is a defense mechanism,” Lennon continues. “These fears are absolutely intuitive. However, our recreational culture makes us believe that swimming and water sports are a normal part of life. The most common thing I hear from my students is that being a non-swimmer is a social handicap.”
…Lennon argues that traditional swimming lessons, which place a strong emphasis on stroke development, don’t really teach people how to swim. “Stroking is not swimming,” he says. “You need to have complete control over your body in the weightless environment of the pool.” In the beginning, it’s natural for students to feel a loss of control in the water. Lennon likens the feeling to what someone sitting in a chair would experience if gravity were suddenly switched off. “If you floated out of your chair, your heart rate would go up dramatically, because you’d be taken by surprise,” he says.
His objective is to bring that heart rate back down and make his students “at peace with the water.” He does so by holding long classes (up to six hours a day) at a 92-degree, 20-by-60-foot indoor Jewish Community Center pool with no observers. Soft jazz or classical music plays as Lennon keeps his students in constant motion â€” floating, gliding, rolling and eventually performing what he calls “aqua-gymnastics.” “If they’re not busy, they’re self-absorbed and thinking about the strangeness of being in a weightless environment,” he says. “You’ve got to keep them busy doing soft, gentle, extremely easy things, and they adjust quite quickly.”
After students leave Lennon’s classes, they then must struggle to adjust to cooler water in a new, noisier environment populated by swimmers of all skill levels. He stresses it could take eight or more trips to a local facility until a new adult swimmer finally adapts and feels comfortable.
Lennon estimates that he has helped “thousands and thousands” of adults. Yet he still regrets that he has so little competition in this market. “Teaching adults to swim,” he says, “is a low priority within our society’s value system.” (SOURCE)
On a personal note, about six months after meeting Paul, I realized that one of my oldest friends had been going to pool parties for years and just sitting on the side, always trying to pretend he was busy. After grilling him about it a little, he confessed that he never learned to swim and was humiliated. Eventually, thanks to the insights I gained from Paul, I was able to help my friend conquer his fears. Now he brings his swimsuit to pool parties more often (and with more confidence!) than I do. Makes me happy just thinking about it. Thanks, Paul. :)