5 pieces of poolside advice for new Outdoor Afro swimmers

Calling for caregivers and kids: Register to Outdoor Afro’s Making Waves program and graduate with stronger relationships to neighborhood waterways. Since 2019, Making Waves has provided water safety, drowning prevention, and proper stroke technique for beginner poolsters. In short, swimming fundamentals. Outdoor Afro founded the nationwide program because natatorium research revealed rather shocking U.S. community news. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, Black youth ages 10 to 14 drown in swimming pools at a rate more than 7.6 times that of white children. A public health disparity due largely to decades of exclusion and segregation from beaches and public pools. “After learning of this alarming number and that it continued to grow, Outdoor Afro decided to make an impact within our sphere of influence,” said Founder and CEO Rue Mapp.

The national not-for-profit organization launched Making Waves four years ago in its hometown of Oakland to teach kids and caregivers how to swim at local pools. The program has undergone start-and-stop challenges with COVID. Huddles with identifying qualified swim providers with sufficient and welcoming instructors. Yet, the program has propelled forward. Making Waves has managed to provide lessons at no cost to nearly 400 new swimmers thus far. This year’s goal: teach up to 1,000 new swimmers by the end of 2023. In collaboration with select swim providers across the United States, both kids and their caregivers take anywhere from six to eight, 30-minute lessons, valued at roughly $150 for the entire learning experience.


The program covers all lessons designed to teach safety precautions, water confidence, and the correct stroke styles. With each session, Swimmership recipients gain health and wellness benefits. Exercise that increases stamina, flexibility, and strength. Improvements in posture, coordination, and balance. Stress alleviation through peaceful and relaxing movements. Before signing up for this opportunity, carefully read these guidelines for a successful program adventure with Outdoor Afro: 

Watch Making Waves community impact story with former Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Kimberley Glover.


Aside from swimming gear like swimsuits, trunks, ear plugs, goggles, and swim caps for hair protection, pool equipment is minimal to bring to beginner lessons. Swim instructors typically provide useful buoyancy aids. RUBBER RINGS: A great help mate for getting your feet off the bottom of the pool. Fitting snug under your arms, these water rings are a first step to building confidence in the pool. ARMBANDS: Providing body support, this aid gives the advantage of freeing up your arms and legs. As your trust in the water increases, you can gradually deflate bands. FLOATS: This effective aid comes in assortments. Still, each shape offers support to practice arm and leg movements. Outdoor Afro’s select providers are Red Cross certified swim instructors who know exactly what types of water devices are best to advance each individual swimmer’s performance and confidence.


When engaged in any outdoor activity, safety is the highest priority. Know and respectfully adhere to swimming pool safety rules. By doing so, you will avoid a lot of dangerous and life-threatening accidents poolside. Even while visiting other waterways such as rivers, lakes, and beaches. Remain honest with yourself about your swimming experience. Stay within your water depth until becoming an adept swimmer. Also, create enough space between you and those who are in sections of the pool like the diving area. Pools are slippery scenes, so absolutely no running. If seaside, never attempt to swim when danger flags are up. And under no circumstance swim solo. 


Not in the best of health, don’t force a Making Waves swim session. That includes ear or nose infections. It’s also not a good idea to swim immediately after eating a hearty meal, which can lead to stomach cramps. As far as cleanliness goes, take a short shower before and after swimming to prevent recreational water ailments. Come gear and equipment prepared by using only washed towels and swimwear. For toddlers, swim diapers are highly recommended to preempt major potty accidents. After every swim lesson, make sure to dry thoroughly, especially between toes. Infections like verrucas and athlete’s foot easily spread in damp conditions.


The very sight of a pool or open water intimidates some beginner swimmers. Trusting yourself in this new activity is a process. Outdoor Afro’s select swim providers teach confidence-building exercises to strengthen water relationships. Starting with relaxing. Some tasks to expect to increase poolside comfort: WALKING. Avoiding the pool’s deep end as a beginner, shoulder-deep water is a safe space to stand. Then, walking while your arms work underwater starts to develop a first-step sense of security. BLOWING BUBBLES. After getting your shoulders wet, practicing bubble blowing with your chin in the water is another foundational step toward rhythmic breathing techniques. TREADING WATER. With armbands and floats as your initial support, gradually lift and alternate your feet. You will increase your foot speed until holding yourself up without touching the bottom of the pool is achievable.


Once your beginner lessons through Making Waves complete, don’t stop swimming. There’s still more to master. After you’ve become proficient in basic strokes and standard dives, check off these next steps to increase your swimming pool confidence. NO 1. Join your local swim club. They welcome new swimmers and offer additional support. Even new swim buddies. NO. 2. Register for competitions. Once you’re swimming like a fish, enter special events to fine-tune performance. NO. 3. Sign up for advanced diving, underwater swimming, and lifesaving technique coursework. Each reinforces and advances your technique. NO. 4. Explore newer water fun. Watersports like waterski-ing, windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, and canoeing help expand physical capabilities and allow you to try outdoor activities you probably would have never accessed before.

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with nature through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and @outdoorafro today.