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Free Swimming

Butch Hendrick

As we look around the world today we find that Americans are not alone in the fact that for the most part, we are a non-swimming country. Not to confused with a nation that loves the water and water related activities, but rather a country where the general population cannot really swim. We seem to believe if we can struggle our way across the town swimming pool or we do not have to stop to catch our breath for at least a hundred yards we must be swimmers. In fact, the average water rescue person in this country is a poor swimmer.

The drowning rate in our country combined with the standard distances of drowning victims off shore demonstrates that if they could swim, all or better of our nations drowning might never have happened.

We are now entering an era where many Americans who can swim and in fact can swim long distances (3 to 5 miles) are finding themselves restricted to areas where they are allowed to do so. As in any American situation where you cannot do what you want to, we begin lobbing to change things, hopefully to our way.

As a long distance swimmer myself I would love it if my local parks department suddenly opened their waterways to my personal swimming whims. However, I should keep in mind that everyone has the potential of drowning and we all pretty much drown alike. If we can we will all try to reach shore on our own, second if we can we will yell for help, and finally we struggle for self-survival until we drowned quietly.

We can say that it is our own personal decision to swim in areas where there is no lifeguard or preset self rescue system. However, what about the innocent bystander who happens to be biking or hiking or camping or swimming in a controlled area. The lifeguard who is not trained for open water long distances rescues who elects to try and become a hero by saving the poor drowning swimmer in the middle of the lake. Don't think it won't happen. As we know in the world of public safety people who witness drowning do strange things.

When the long distance swimmer does drown did we even preplan on a swim zone where the depths and debris were reasonable for the local dive team or did we just arbitrarily pick an area. Who is going to cover the cost of the recovery of this individual who felt it was their sole individual responsibility for their personal safety and recovery. What happens when the family is crying on the shoreline begging for closure?

Lets spend a little more time trying to make better swimmers out of Americans and then create responsible swim areas for those who whish to be free swimmers.

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