Watch and learn: There’s a lesson in Bailey’s ‘swimming arms’

My two-year-old daughter, Bailey, never had a chance.

Born into a swimming family, she has been in and around water almost daily since she first opened her eyes.

As a previous teacher of swimming and a career ocean swim coach, I’ve been enjoying teaching my own children using the teaching techniques I’ve developed over more than two decades. 

Fun and water safety skills come an equal first, but I’ll always sneak in a way to develop her skills beyond her age (I can’t help it!) whenever we swim.

At two years old, the one skill I haven’t even got close to teaching her is freestyle.

But, that hasn’t stopped Bailey from learning it herself!

You see, one of the joys of being a Slade is that you have to come to swim squad training 2-3 times a week.

Over the past year or so, Bailey has watched hours and hours of mum and dad swimming up and down the pool, while she eats her breakfast in her pushchair.

If she’s been good, and she always is, she gets a swim after too!

Bailey finishing her breakfast after a busy session of watching mum & dad and getting her own swim in.

It was during a pre-dinner swim back in the pool at home when I realised that Bailey hadn’t just been enjoying her toast during squad training, she’d actually been watching us and soaking up what we were doing, lap after lap.

Standing on the step at the end of the pool, Bailey pronounced to me “swimming arms, daddy” as she swung her arms around like windmills.

The next thing I knew, she had dived off the steps and was effectively swimming ‘freestyle’ towards me – I couldn’t believe it! When I caught her and gave her a big hug, telling her how proud I was, she had the kind of smile on her face that indicated she knew it was something unexpected and special. 

Whilst that was a proud daddy moment, it’s not a skill I’m pushing her to do because it’s so far beyond her swimming needs at this stage of her development. In fact, we can’t even ask for ‘swimming arms’ on demand, she only does them when she wants to (of course, she’s a toddler).

So why am I telling you this story?

It’s because there is a lesson here for everyone.

Not everything you learn will be taught directly to you.

Just like a lot of ocean swimming is learnt through your own experience, there is a lot to be learnt by watching others.

Bailey watching her (read dad’s) idols in the 2021 Shannon Eckstein Ironman Classic

Just as Bailey learnt her ‘swimming arms’ by watching her parents swim, mum and dad had been adding to their knowledge by watching the impressive surf swimmers in the Shannon Eckstein Ironman Classic on the Gold Coast.

If you want a masterclass on swimming in big surf, take a moment to watch these supreme surf sports athletes. There is no doubt you’ll learn something that will make you a better, smarter ocean swimmer.

Here’s a video of the event on Facebook, and the four races to watch are:

52:30 – Open Women’s Surf Race

1:00:10 – Open Men’s Surf Race

2:26:00 – Open Ironwomen Swim Leg

2:50:50 – Open Ironman Swim Leg

Take particular notice of how the swimmers account for the massive sweep, navigate the shallow sand bars, negotiate the large, powerful waves, and squeeze everything they can out of the swell on the way back to shore – all at full pace!

Maybe Bailey will be out there competing as an Ironwomen one day, but for now, she’s still working on diving for rings.

Bailey with mum before an ocean swim with the Gold Coast Open Water Swimming Club
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