We spent a lot of time at Halifax lakes and beaches last summer, thanks to Halifax Recreation’s program of FREE swimming lessons at Halifax beaches and outdoor pools.
At Kearney Lake, my daughter’s class sizes were small, and by the end of the two-session summer, we knew most of the lifeguards and other swimmers by name. As a parent spectator, life at the beach was far more relaxing than squeezing next to other parents on a humid indoor poolside bench. A few times last summer, I even jumped in at the water at the same time as the class. Not WITH the class of course. That would be soooo embarrassing!
Another really great thing about beach lessons is that beach lifeguards have paddle boards, which they actually use! The sweet young man you see in the photo above would end almost every lesson with a cool trick. In relatively shallow water, he’d place a child at the end of the paddleboard, and then – with biceps of steel! – lift the board up until it was completely vertical, the child naturally sliding off the end of the board with a delighted scream and a big splash. Pretty magical.
There are drawbacks to outdoor beach lessons. One major factor is the weather. Light rain is OK, but any rumour of lightning and the once agreeable lifeguards go totally panic-bananas, ordering every creature out of the water for at least half an hour.
Even more concerning are the schools of giant, toe-licking, bum-tickling catfish. Um…. NOT! But try and convince my daughter otherwise! After she developed a fish phobia, we convinced her that fish do not live in man-made lakes. This story was busted by a fellow swimmer within about a day of us concocting it, and we had to go through a couple of days of amateur behaviour therapy to get her back into the water.
Another caution is that you can get burned very easily at an outdoor lesson. SPF swim gear recommended, and insist on hats on after swimming.
One of the most magical things about having swimming lessons at the lake is he complete stillness of the water when you arrive in the morning. On the days last summer that we were first to arrive (sometimes before the lifeguards!) I felt that I was back in my own childhood. The photo above shows my daughter discovering a toy dog at the end of the wharf. We had no idea how or why it was there, but she was tickled pink to meet it. The toy dog watched her entire lesson, and we left it there, for the owner to find.
I remember days like this. I swam at the same lake as a kid, and even took canoeing lessons at the nearby MASKWA aquatic club. One summer, when I was 11 years’ old, I lost a peach coloured high-top converse sneaker off the wharf at MASKWA. To this day, I can’t drive along the Kearney Lake Road without wondering where my shoe is, whether some catfish has made his home in it. Somewhere in the back of my crazy mind, I imagine I might find the shoe one day. Isn’t that funny?
I wonder how my daughter will remember her summers at the lake . The toy dog at the end of the wharf, her brief phobia of fish, the paddlleboard waterslide, or the times that Mummy swam in the water too. Perhaps she won’t remember details of each summer, but at least she will develop a love for the outdoors as she learns to swim.
The best part about outdoor lakes and beaches lessons? The price. Thanks to the City of Halifax, lessons at the lakes and beaches are absolutely FREE. Now that’s one good reason to sign up! You can find details of beach lessons online at Rec Connect. See you at the lake!