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Survival Swim Training Format

Teaching is done in both group and individual lessons. Ensure all swimming lessons are conducted in a safe environment supervised by lifeguards, especially when swimming in clothes. Follow your swimming schedules and deliver all the lessons to the highest standard. Assess progress and recommend for class advancement when ready.

Training Objectives

Most lifesaving activities and watersports involve getting wet from spray or going into the water, sometimes often, sometimes only occasionally. The point of this training is to get you familiar with your watersport clothing and adventure kit.

To keep warm you wear special clothing designed for the water, plus the usual sportswear or casuals. Function and comfort are as important as rescue preparedness and familiarity.

Swimming in your watersports clothes is great fun to learn and practice before you go for any adventures. Once you've carefully chosen your adventure kit, put it on and jump into a local swimming pool, to prepare for wet wild adventures in open water.

First Lesson

Lesson Goals: To overcome anxiety and learn proper breath control, comfort with submersion, independent floating on the stomach and back, independent kicking to and from the wall, roll to the back as a place of safety, and elementary backstroke.

The first session should focus on learning how to move, balance and enjoy swimming. Start with light clothing, then jogging suits or tracksuits, and finally a canoeing cag/anorak with spray deck. Take time to focus on individual skills instead of one overwhelming exercise.

Build up your fitness levels and water confidence as you socialise with others in this fun activity. Laughter is a good way to release some of the tension. When scared or nervous, most people tense up, losing their ability to react to the water. Shake it off, dance it out, have a giggle or smile. Remember, we do this because it is fun.

Better swimming lessons start easy and get progressively harder when they include elements of survival swimming. Clothing is used for realistic lessons and training to be prepared for an eventual emergency. The Dutch Zwem ABC is the probably the best programme that uses this approach.

Beginners Class

Primary Focus: Learn the main swimming strokes and skills needed to stay safe. This foundational swim class is for beginner students to achieve comfort with basic swim skills.

During theory training we explore water safety and what swimming strokes work best in various situations. Explain how different types of clothing affect their swimming abilities and how to cope with this.

Then hop into the pool, dressed in minimal swimwear (T-shirts and shorts) and practice the various swimming strokes. At the end of the lesson give a preview of the "Intermediate" lesson where they can put on extra clothes.


Primary Focus: Participants will gain proficiency in advanced aquatic skills and swimming strokes. This swim class includes gaining control of breathing for underwater swimming. It is for students with no anxiety when submerging or floating on their backs.

Student Goals: To efficiently move through the water demonstrating confidence of breath control, freestyle and backstroke.

The theory includes an overview of various rescue techniques. Try on different kit and learn how to wear it in a safe way.

Then go into the pool fully clothed, with jeans and hoodies over shorts and sports shirts or pullovers. This simulates a situation where the may fall into the water, or go for a swim on an adventure trek.

Practice a variety self rescue skills, including what to do when you break into ice. Show ways to rescue others, even using clothes as towing tool. Swimming 300 meters, push-ups and sit-ups on pool side and a lot of climbing out and jumping in is all part of the fun. Finally round off the lesson with a few pool games to get used to swimming fully clothed.


This part is all about adventure trekking and how to stay safe in the water. A variety of outdoor skills and hiking outfits get explored and practised before we go into the water.

In the pool practice swimming in different hiking clothes, including rain suits and ponchos on top. This can be exhausting as it involves getting out and changing into different kit a few times. Rain clothes also cause more drag when swimming, especially ponchos.

Teach how to pack a waterproof rucksack with the dry essentials, while swimming in all the clothes that can get wet or dry quickly. The trick is to keep the bag's inside dry while they swim 100 meters.

Finally teach how to handle boats, capsize, and climb in again. This is quite exhausting due to the heavy waterlogged clothes, but huge fun.

Refine Your Skills

Survival swimming is different from the usual swimming lessons and not a replacement for them. You'll learn the essentials needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water, an important first step to being safe around water.

This lesson is a good opportunity to refine your swimming skills as you will quickly feel the difference. Bad swimming skills always show up quickly as the clothes put up some resistance and slow you right down. Only correct swimming skills will keep you going.

Practice all swimming strokes to build confidence. Continue adding more clothes until you can swim fully clothed in a competent, efficient manner. Eventually you can perform advanced skills and be extremely proficient at water survival.

Know Your Team

There are times during survival training when swimmers may need to negotiate water obstacles. Leaders at all levels should be aware of the potentially dangerous situation this presents for people who fear water or cannot swim well.

Team leaders are responsible for knowing the water survival ability level of each swimmer. This knowledge lets them assign responsibilities and take protective measures to ensure the safety of each swimmer.

Practice with each team member swimming in the pool. Start with light clothing, increase until fully clothed. Lead by example. Be in the pool with them and check their confidence.

Try out every outfit and combination you may want to use for your adventures at home in your bath or shower. See how heavy your clothes get when soaking wet. Can you still move around freely, or do your wet clothes get into the way?

Before you go out on any adventures, practice swimming in your adventure clothes in a swimming pool. This builds confidence and avoids later surprises. You may find swimming in all these clothes quite a challenge at first, but it will get easier with consistent training.

Qualified Lifeguards

Lifeguards should be present at all times during your lifesaving or survival swim training. They should have a current Lifeguard Training certificate (American Red Cross or equivalent) and must be certified in first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).