Thursday, July 31, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Grown-ups wade into world of adult swim classes

adult swim school 4_2_14

Debbie Koenig, right, helps Vinard Junio float on his back, Wednesday during a swim lesson at the In-Shape gym on Dover Street in Fairfield. Junio is taking swim lessons because he recently enlisted in the Navy and has had a fear of water since he was 10. Debbie’s Swim School puts an emphasis on teaching adults how to swim. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

By
From page C1 | April 06, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — The phone call usually starts with something like, “You’ve probably never taught someone as old.”

Debbie Koening lets the caller continue to talk until they reach the point they want to talk about swim lessons. If they are 94 or older, she can assure them their statement is true. (Her oldest student was 93 when he learned.)

Anyone younger than that is just wading themselves through a nervous introduction.

Koenig is the woman behind Debbie’s Swim School, a school that puts an emphasis on teaching adults to swim, in the hopes of avoiding tragedy. She estimates she’s taught thousands of adults to swim over the years.

People such as Angela Caragan, 32, who learned when she was 30.

There was no pool around when she grew up, so the need to learn the basics wasn’t an issue. Caragan developed a fear of the water, worried that if she fell in a pool, she would drown.

“It’s a life skill I needed to learn,” she said. “I decided it was time to tackle something I was afraid of.”

The staff at Debbie’s Swim School used baby steps to get her comfortable in the water. Caragan would hang on to the side, never let her feet off the pool floor and wouldn’t put her face in the water.

After her first few lessons, she was able to put one ear in the water. Then, the other. Eventually, her face.

The Vallejo resident continues lessons, perfecting her technique. Time in the swimming pool is also part of her workout routine.

Learning to swim has opened a whole new world, she said.

“Last year, I went snorkeling for the first time,” she said.

Jet skiing and boating are two other water activities she’s very comfortable doing. Kayaking is next.

Like many adults, Caragan said it was hard to step up and ask for help. When she told people she didn’t know how to swim, they were shocked, she said.

Suisun City resident Melanie Huff, 37, had cancer when she was 2. Swimming was out of the question. She couldn’t get water in her ears, for fear of ear infections that could compromise her health.

That didn’t stop her as a teen from trying wake boarding and water skiing.

“I would stay up on purpose,” she said. If she fell, she never let her head get under water. “I had a fear of being under deep water.”

After watching her daughter take lessons at Debbie’s Swim School, Huff decided it was time for her to learn.

Deaf in one ear and with only 30 percent hearing in the other, Huff found Koening the perfect teacher as she was willing to do signs under the water. Huff removes her hearing aids before getting in the pool.

“My coordination has gotten better and I’m more confident in myself,” Huff said of learning to swim. “I’ve come a long way.”

Huff and Caragan are now water aerobics instructors.

Vinard Junio, 22, recently enlisted in the Navy. They advised him to take swimming lessons. He said his fear of the water came from his own near-drowning experience when he was 10, when he went into the deep end of a pool and had to be pulled from the water.

“I was terrified,” he said.

He stayed out of the pool for many years. Rather than admit he couldn’t swim, he was the one who volunteered to watch the kids at pool parties.

“I have no fear anymore,” he said. “Now I know I can survive.”

The Vallejo resident is now in the pool about five days a week. He hopes to go jet skiing and scuba diving. His two young children, 2 and 8 months, will learn to swim much earlier, Junio said.

All three students praised Koening for her approach in letting them find their comfort zone in the water before learning to swim.

Koening loves to teach but sees her mission as one of prevention, too. When she was about 5, her younger sister, about 8 months old at the time, managed to crawl into a pool in their grandfather’s backyard. Koening pulled her safely out of the water.

“Her eyes were huge,” Koening said. “I knew she was in a critical state.”

Her sister survived.

Having a near-drowning experience, witnessing one, or seeing someone drown are the main reasons adults decide to learn swimming, said Koening and one of her instructors, Kazandra Gudnason.

When Gudnason was 12, she pulled a younger cousin, who was drowning, out of the swimming pool.

One of her students almost drowned as a child. In a separate accident, the woman watched her sister drown in front of her. The woman didn’t like to take showers because she had such a fear of the water. In less than 10 lessons, she was able to kick across the pool, Gudnason said of the woman.

Statistics from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation indicate that 10 people drown every day and 80 percent of them are adults or young adults. They are just as tragic as a youth drowning, Koening said.

“A 30-year-old is still someone’s child,” she said.

Koening started her swim school in 1992 in Napa. Today, she has a dozen instructors and more than 15 locations.

Her reward comes in the form of phone calls from students on vacation, telling her they’ve stepped into the hotel pool for the first time.

The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation estimates more than one-third of all adults can’t swim the length of a 25-yard pool.

“A lot of people out there don’t know how to swim,” Koening said. “They don’t need to be embarrassed. Once they learn it can transform their entire life.”

That, and possibly save their life and the lives of others as well.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or amaginnis@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

It’s ‘camping for 30′ at the Solano fair

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Cities dealing with state drought rules

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Muralist helps locals ready for some painted wall history

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Rejection makes us each stronger

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

 
Highway 12 crash sends 2 to hospital

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 11 Comments | Gallery

 
Mall to host Ultimate Army Throw Down

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Police release name of Vallejo homicide victim

By Glen Faison | From Page: A4, 8 Comments | Gallery

 
Police investigate Fairfield shooting

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: July 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: July 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

Peace Corps evacuates over Ebola as 2 isolated

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Pipe break that flooded UCLA dumps 20M gallons

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Dissent quieted with most Israelis behind Gaza war

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments | Gallery

Obama takes tougher line against Gaza casualties

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 7 Comments

 
AP Analysis: Amid war, endgames in Gaza emerge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

2 women survive ordeal along Indiana rail bridge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Ex-IRS official called conservatives ‘crazies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 6 Comments

Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 13 Comments

 
Congress cooperates – and fights – as recess nears

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Powell maybe not told early about CIA techniques

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Crews work to keep Yosemite fire from sequoias

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Sanctions will damage Russia if not lifted quickly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Clashes prevent experts from reaching bodies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

 
Cruz gets border crisis wrong

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11, 8 Comments

Editorial Cartoons: July 31, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
What happened to the US?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 18 Comments

Am I blaming victims?

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 10 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History for July 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: July 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes for July 31, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
I want to change my daughters last name to my maiden name

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Commentary: ‘Orphan Black,’ Emmy snubs and questions of identity

By Los Angeles Times | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Allison Williams headed skyward as NBC’s Peter Pan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Contract dispute delays ‘Big Bang’ production

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Sports

SF benefits from Pirates’ blunder, ends skid at 6

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Complete game shutout lifts Expos to State Tournament win

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Hammel fails again for Athletics in loss to Astros

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Ray Guy’s long wait for Hall of Fame comes to end

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Raiders owner confirms talks with San Antonio

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Lloyd’s film watching impresses 49ers teammates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Stanford star Ty Montgomery rehabbing shoulder

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Greg Ives to crew chief Earnhardt in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Steelers to retire Hall of Famer Greene’s No. 75

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Fairfield-Suisun 6U Bobby Sox win titles

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4, 1 Comment

Usain Bolt in controversy at Commonwealth Games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Indians trade pitcher Masterson to Cardinals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Riley speaks out, insists Heat will be competitive

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Nadal out of 2 tournaments because of right wrist

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Pipe break that flooded UCLA dumps 20M gallons

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

US judge slaps $1.3B fine on Bank of America

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

 
A more vigorous US economy appears to be emerging

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Overhaul approved for troubled California refinery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Judge says Crystal CEO should testify in lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7, 1 Comment

.

Obituaries

Clifford C. Hemler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Louise Scholten

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Ronald Witt Escue Sr.

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Scott Allen Shaver

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9