World’s Largest Swimming Lesson at YMCA

Haley Gustafson | Daily Press Northern Lights YMCA lifeguard Kayla Wiltzius instructs swimmers on how to tread water during the World’s Largest Swiming Lesson (WLSL) event held at the YMCA in Escanaba Thursday.

ESCANABA — About 100 kids were in the Northern Lights YMCA pool in Escanaba Thursday taking part in the annual World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL).

The global event took place over the course of 24 hours Thursday at an estimated 600 locations in more than 20 countries. The event aims to reduce the risk of drowning, which, according to the WLSL website, is one of the top five causes of death for people aged 1-14 years old in 48 of the 85 countries that had data that met criteria for inclusion.

Since its inception eight years ago, more than 195,000 children and adults have participated in WLSL. In 2016, 40,298 people took part in the global event from 24 countries.

According to Megan Gouin, aquatics director at the YMCA, the purpose and overall goal of the WLSL is to bring awareness locally and globally about the potential dangers of being around a body of water, while also bringing the importance of knowing water safety to parents and kids. The event also aims to highlight how swimming lessons can save lives.

“I think it’s really important,” said Gouin. “It’s (drowning) is the leading cause of accidental death.”

During the lesson, swimmers learned how to properly tread water, identify safe exit and entry points for a body of water, kicking and rhythmic breathing, arm strokes, and much more.

Gouin noted that learning to be safe in and around water is especially important for people who live in the area because of the vast amounts of shoreline around the U.P.

One swim participant, Merlot Williams, said she enjoyed partaking in the world’s largest swim lesson.

“I got to show them my swimming skills,” said eight-year-old Williams. She is also involved in a swim team, and goes to the YMCA on a frequent basis.

According to Williams, learning how to be cautious around water is important because it gives swimmers and bystanders knowledge of what to do if an emergency situation arises.

“(It’s important) so that if they’re ever drowning they know how to swim and it’s fun to learn how to (swim),” said Williams.