JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Living in Jacksonville, a city surrounded by water and pools sprawling throughout the community, water safety is extremely important.
Aqua Swim School’s team offers a variety of classes and a swim team. Their mission: To share their knowledge and passion for swimming by instilling safety, fun and proper technique in all their members to achieve their full potential. I have witnessed classes firsthand while filming a story on them as they worked with my 5-year-old son. The instructors have a great blend of teaching technique and safety while at the same time allowing kids to be kids.
Aqua Swim School is led by owner and team leader Nim Shapira, a two-time Olympian who raced in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. Shapira has been a member of the Israeli national team since the age of 15 and has competed at all international levels, including the Maccabiah Games, European Championships, World Championships, and, of course, the Olympics.
Shapira started swim lessons after nearly drowning at a birthday party when he was 7 years old. As he pointed out, drownings can happen quickly and often there are people around who don’t notice what’s happening right in front of them.
I shared my near-drowning experience with Shapira. I was 8 years old and my sister was 6 and we were swimming in a hotel pool. While swimming, she drifted past the roped-off section into the deep end. After noticing her struggles, I swam over to help. She immediately did what all people in her position do and clung to whatever she could — in this case, me. I could barely swim. As her arms and legs wrapped around me, I could not breathe as I sank into the pool. Somehow, I made it to the side of the pool, and I remember reaching out for the ledge with all my might. The next thing I knew, my parents were pulling us out. It all might’ve happened in 30 seconds.
I am sure I speak for most parents when I say it’s hard to watch your child every second of their lives, especially when you’re watching multiple kids. Drowning only takes a few seconds.
At Aqua Swim School, practices teach children various drills that mimic falling into the pool and show them body control they need to float, relax, breathe and then swim out of the pool. It’s a skillset that your child will always have and use. Shapira and his team are truly passionate about what they do and are focused on reducing the number of drownings in our area.
It’s not every day that you meet someone who escaped a drowning and went on to become an Olympic swimmer. I am inspired by what Shapira has accomplished throughout his career, but even more so by what he has done in helping children who are learning how to swim.