There it was, an old rickety shack of a building stuck fronting a caravan park on the outskirts of The Entrance, a sleepy coastal town. It was day one of a swimming class I’d been signed up for; I was 11 years old with a bowl haircut and butterflies camped in my stomach.
Inside the shack was a swimming pool, my worst nightmare, for some reason I had a fear of the water, I don’t know where it came from, a past life on the Titanic, who knows, but it was there, buried.
In the car on the way over I couldn’t stop thinking about it, swimming may have been a sport, I was good at sport but this was like death, fear will do that to you, like a dragon right in front, ready to incinerate you.
The swimming teacher, I can’t even remember specifically what she did but it was tough love, it was literally sink or swim for me, she was the drill sergeant and I wanted no part of her basic training.
I just remember her being old, no offense to witches because I know witches and like them but she was a witch, the Hollywood pointed hat wart on nose witch, I’m sure she parked the broomstick on the roof of this old rickety shack.
I hated it, loathed it and wanted no part of it, I remember once I hid in the bathroom and refused to come out. I complained and pouted afterwards, over time Mum relented and stopped taking me so essentially I never learnt how to actually swim.
To be honest it was no big deal for years and years, I even wagged the swimming day in high school and would have got away with it if Dad didn’t unexpectedly arrive home from work and heard footsteps upstairs, damn my heavy feet.
After my accident they stuck me in a rehabilitation pool for therapy, weirdly enough I actually enjoyed it, floaties and all. Over the years I developed my own stroke, a freestyle/dog paddle hybrid that makes fish nervous and small children giggle but still doesn’t get my head underwater.
The last few years we’ve been going over to Watsons Bay where Woollahra council has built an access ramp and pontoon to allow access into the harbor for swimming, a great concept, so before beers and a munch at the Watsons Bay Hotel there is the required throwing the football and practicing my hybrid giggle fest.
I even tried surfing with the great AccesSurf crew in Waikiki, which was two parts petrifying, one part exhilarating, that 30cm wave felt like an absolute monster. Now after all these years I’ve been thinking its time to actually learn how to swim so I am going to try again, join a class and do it.
It may have to be some adult class though; I think the kids could be a little freaked out by the tattoos and no legs; either way they’d be intrigued, just as long as the teacher has no broomstick.