Sign up for summer swimming lessons
Living in an area surrounded by water is all the more reason to learn to swim. The Panama City Beach Parks & Rec Department offers swimming lessons throughout the summer months and into October for basically anyone -- toddlers to senior citizens. Lessons are individual, group and parent/infant. There are also classes for special needs children.
“We are located on the world’s most beautiful beach and because of that, locals and visitors are naturally attracted to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. People come here to enjoy the water in a variety of ways, including swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, sailing and more. With such a large natural resource, and the close proximity to numerous lakes and springs, it is important for everyone to learn how to swim," said Wil Spivey, Parks & Rec Aquatics Superintendent.
"Practically every resort property on the beach has a swimming pool and many homeowners also have pools. It is very important that if you are going to be in the water, you need to know how to swim.”
There are three summer swimming sessions remaining:
- Group: June 18-29; July 9-20; July 23-Aug. 3.
- Private lessons: June 4-Aug. 3 and Aug. 13-Oct. 26
- Special Needs: September and October
Group class times are: 8:30-9:15 a.m., 9:30-10:15 a.m., 10:30-11:15 a.m., 4:30-5:15 p.m., 5:30-6:15 p.m., and 6:30-7:15 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Friday is used as a bad weather make-up day if needed. Private lessons are categorized as general, adult and special needs. The private lessons are two days a week either M/W or T/TH for two weeks.
Groups are also broken down by ability:
- 8:30 a.m., Level 1 group lesson, Level 2 group lesson and private lessons.
- 9:30 a.m., parent-child group lesson, Level 1 group lesson, and Level 2 group lesson
- 10:30 a.m., Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 all group lessons
- 4:30 p.m., parent-child group lesson, Level 1 group lesson, and Level 2 group lesson
- 5:30 p.m., Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 all group lessons
- 6:30 p.m., Level 1 group lesson, Level 2 group lesson and private lessons.
Level 1 is an intro to water skills for ages 3-6. Level 2 is fundamental water skills for ages 5-8. Level 3 is stroke development for ages 6-9.
Private lessons (including special needs) are $110 and group sessions are $80. All classes are 45 minutes long, whether group or private. All lessons are at the Panama City Beach Aquatic Center at Frank Brown Park. To register, please come to the Aquatic Center ticket off or call 850.236.2205. Cash or credit card payments are accepted.
"Any age can learn to swim," said Kristin Lucas, PCB Parks & Rec Aquatics Crew Chief. "Everyone should learn to swim and it is never too early or too late! Our parent-child class is recommended for infants 16-36 months. With mom or dad, the little ones learn to be comfortable in the water and have fun!"
The time it takes to learn how to swim varies, Lucas said, based on age, experience and how comfortable students are in the water. "Some kids come in and have no fear and others need multiple days of lessons just to enter the water without anxiety," Lucas said.
She said it is also important to have a clear goal in mind when taking lessons. Some parents are concerned about basic skills needed for survival and others are looking toward competitive swimming. "All of this applies to adults as well. Some adults come in just wanting to work on stroke technique and others are anxious due to something like a near-drowning experience at some point in their life. Any person who has prior experience in the water and isn’t afraid will definitely learn faster than someone who is new to the water and is fearful at first.”
Learning how to swim is such an important skill and the younger a child learns the easier it is, Lucas said. "The older a person is, child or adult, the more difficult it is to retrain their muscle memory skills to learn proper technique. Anyone learning how to swim should remember to be patient and respect the water at all times."
Residents also need to be educated on the Florida beach flag warning system regarding rip currents and staying out of the water when there are double red flags. Parents should never let their children swim unattended. Carol Wagner, Beach & Surf Patrol Supervisor, said even strong swimmers can get in trouble in the Gulf.
“It’s the rip currents that will get you and the panic when people get pulled away from the shoreline. Fear tends to grab people – swimmers and nonswimmers - when they are pulled away from shore. People react to rip currents differently. You can be a good swimmer and still be pulled in. In rough water, we don’t want to have to rescue people. If someone is in the water without a flotation device, they can get in trouble in the water."
Public Information Officer Debbie Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.