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Zwem ABC - Dutch Survival Swimming

Survival Swimming in the Netherlands is mainly taught by the swimming teachers in local pools. From age four kids learn in three stages how to swim and survive accidents. All these training programmes are very popular because they are great fun.

Many exercises are offered in a game, because that's the best way to learn. Don't think that they are just playing in the water. Each game has a purpose.

Afterwards they learn the swimming strokes. In addition to the strokes will continue to pay close attention to all kinds of exercises in deep water, such as different ways of going into the water, swim underwater, climbing and scrambling on a raft and on the side and go to the bottom.

From the very first swimming lessons attention is paid to safety and survival. This is done by trial and error, jump into the water and climb out of the water. Also swimming with clothes in the water is practised regularly during the lessons.

No matter whether it is a river or swimming lake, bathing in clear waters or entering ice areas require special skills. The participants learn to know their limits, as well as to take care of themselves and others so as not to get into dangerous situations. The fact that they wear clothes can help one day with a self rescue. If it comes to a misfortune they do not panic, but are able to assess the situation and know the correct behaviour.

Zwem-ABC - Nationale Raad Zwemveiligheid (NRZ)

Here is a shortened translation of the Dutch syllabus by the National Swimming Council.

The A-Diploma

This class (12 hours) teaches basic swimming skills. The main swimming strokes and skills are included.

Requirements for Swimming A-Diploma:

  1. Swim in T-shirt and shorts over swimsuit.
  2. From some height jump into the water go forward feet first.
  3. 15 seconds treading water.
  4. Swim 12 meter breaststroke, diving under a line.
  5. Do a half-turn around the longitudinal axis.
  6. Swim 12 meters single backstroke.
  7. Climb out of the water independently on the side.

The B-Diploma

This class (12 hours) teaches swimming in clothes, more swimming strokes, and simple rescue skills. This is more fun than the class before.

Requirements for Swimming D-Diploma:

  1. Swim fully clothed for the whole test.
  2. From some height jump into the water go forward feet first.
  3. Do a half turn under water.
  4. Tread water for 15 seconds.
  5. Swim 25 meters breaststroke.
  6. Swim underneath an inflatable raft or floating mattress.
  7. Do a whole turn around the longitudinal axis.
  8. Swim 25 meters single backstroke
  9. Climb out of the water independently on the side.

Clothing requirements for B-Diploma:

T-shirt or blouse with long sleeves. Long trousers (not skin tight). It is permitted for candidates instead of a trouser to wear a dress or skirt which must reach the knees. Shoes (plastic and sports shoes are allowed). Shoes with no real soles, such as ballet slippers, are not allowed.

The C-Diploma

The class (12 hours) teaches winter swimming with more clothes, boats and more. It the most fun of all Swim ABC classes.

Requirements for Swimming C-Diploma:

  1. Go into the water from the side with a forward roll.
  2. Tread water for 15 seconds.
  3. 30 seconds float (HELP-position) with use of a device.
  4. Launch off the side with a jump of choice.
  5. Swim 50 meters breaststroke.
  6. Swim underneath an inflatable raft or floating mattress.
  7. Climb over an inflatable raft or floating mattress.
  8. 50 meters single backstroke.
  9. Climb out of the water independently on the side.

Clothing requirements for C-Diploma:

Unlined nylon rain jacket or anorak with long sleeves. T-shirt or blouse with long sleeves. Long trousers (not skin tight). It is permitted for candidates instead of a trouser to wear a dress or skirt which must reach the knees. Shoes (plastic, leather and sports shoes are allowed). Shoes with no real soles, such as ballet slippers, are not allowed.

Zwemvaardigheidtsdiploma (Swimming Ability Diploma)

This class rounds it all out by refining the above skills. It is advisable to maintain the practice and regularly swim after reaching the Zwem ABC. Growing children who do not maintain their proficiency, risk impairing the skills acquired in the water or even lose them. Clearly therefore the safety of the child is no longer assured.

Wakzwemmen (Winter Safety Swimming)

Wakzwemmen is about rescue in dangerous winter situations, such as the break into frozen water.

The Zwem-ABC and Wakzwemmen from the Netherlands serve as an example and model for the Swim ABC. This teaching method has already a long and successful tradition in the Netherlands. In a watery country it is a must that everyone can swim and can also help in exceptional situations.

That is why the importance of the acquisition of the ABC swimming skills is of great importance. With these certificates, everyone can demonstrate their swimming ability. The goals are swimming skills, swimming safety and, of course, fun in the water.

The wet element now has a magical attraction on children. For most there is no greater fun than to splash in the water and to romp with friends or "test" the ice surfaces in the winter.

For parents, it is a reassuring feeling to know that their children are able to act well even in dangerous situations. Schools, swimming pools and parents have realized this, so it is not surprising that there are long waiting times to participate in such a course.

No matter whether it is a river or swimming lake, bathing in clear waters or entering ice areas require special rules. The participants learn to know their limits, as well as to take care of themselves and others so as not to get into dangerous situations. The fact that the children wear clothes can help one day with a self rescue. If it comes to a misfortune the kids do not panic, but are able to assess the situation and know the correct behaviour.

Reader Comment: My Swimming Lessons

by Rik from Amsterdam, Netherlands

A few years ago I learned how to swim in the local pool. The Swimming Diploma (Zwem Diploma) was offered in three stages (A, B and C) and the Zwemvaardigheids Diploma.

The A-Diploma was easy. Dressed in tee-shirts and shorts we've learned the basic swimming strokes, like breaststroke and front crawl.

We also learned how to dive into the water. I did a few belly flops at first, but they didn't hurt because of the tee-shirt.

Then the teacher dived into the water in his hoodie and jogging pants to show us how it is done right. I asked if we could swim in clothes too and he said in the next few lessons we would all swim fully clothed.

The B-Diploma was a bit more challenging but much more exciting. We were asked to wear long trousers and a long sleeve pullover in the water. I had never done this before, so I put on jeans and a sweatshirt over my shorts and tee-shirt.

It was a pleasant surprise when I jumped into the pool with so many clothes on. We learned the backstroke and sidestroke. The games were always the best part of these lessons.

The C-Diploma was even more interesting. In addition to all the clothes we wore before, we were asked to put on boots and a rain jacket or anorak. When I jumped into the water my rain jacked ballooned with all the air inside and I was quickly pulled up to the surface. That was great fun and I did it a few more times. We also learned some rescue skills and what to do if we break into ice. I learned a lot in those lessons.

After the whole class passed the tests, the swimming teacher gave everyone a Zwem-ABC hoodie which we should always wear in the pool from now on to advertise the course.

I never thought that swimming in clothes is so much fun. Now my friends and I always dress up when we go swimming. It keeps us warm for longer and makes us strong.

Recent Update

I'm 18 now and it is time for me to teach lifesaving and survival swimming myself. I just passed a training course which is very intensive with lots of pool practice, but exciting fun, easy and enjoyable.

We went through all the elements of the Zwem ABC, practicing each part and how to teach it in a fun way. I was surprised how much detail goes into swimming classes that I thought to be simple. We learned rescue skills and how to assist our students when they go into the water in their clothes for the first time.

Because I've been survival swimming for a long time, I have been asked by our local swimming pool to teach this several times a week. The classes for adults are calm, but the teenager classes are wild and colourful. They really enjoy it a lot.