Cannonballing into the world of swimming

I know this is not a cannonball, but I don't have a picture of one. And this is not me, because I can't do a backflip...

I’ve always been very tanned due to time spent on the hockey pitch and just being out and about generally. For some reason, in Hong Kong especially, if you’re tanned, people always assume that you’re a swimmer.

This exchange happens to me a lot:

Relative/workmate/stranger: You’re so dark! So you swim a lot huh?

Me: Uh. I can’t swim.

Relative/workmate/stranger: ………

That usually kills the conversation.

And why am I telling you this? Because, ladies and gentlemen, I can’t say “I can’t swim” anymore!

Yes, after many new year’s resolutions, many given-up swimming classes, 4.5 swimming coaches, wimpy admissions of not being able to swim, and many gasps of “but you don’t look like it!”…I can finally proudly say, “Yes sir, I am a swimmer.”


I’ve always wanted to be able to swim. I didn’t have any problems floating in the water, dunking my head in, or splashing about at sea. I was just permanently handicapped from learning the breathing techniques needed to properly swim.

No one was able to teach me. I’d sign up to swimming lessons, I’d learn to kick and I’d learn all the movements, faster than anyone else. But when we get to the turning-your-face-and-breathe part, I stagnated and everyone else moved on.

Knowing I’ll be on a water-heavy holiday in Malaysia, I was once again determined to try and so signed up to some lessons. Intensive. Three times a week at 1.5 hours each time.

First lesson, I showed up in front of the pool, eager to check out my fellow classmates. I ended up looking down at three kids barely my waist high all about 6 years old. HUMILATED was an understatement. I blinked at the parents and acted as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world. I silently cursed the swimming school for putting us together because they didn’t have enough adult students. (Yes, I did sign up for a adult class!)

I looked at the instructor, who was barely out of high school. HUMILIATION No. 2.

As it turned out, it wasn’t too bad! He would give the kiddies some inane task to do, like kick by the side of the pool for 10 minutes. Since the kiddies have a VERY short attention span, their progress was slow. So he’d ditch them and then basically gave me 1-on-1 instruction, which I’ll practice while he turns back to yell at the kids.

By some miracle, it worked. After a while, I turned my head and I breathed. I turned back down and kept going. Then I breathed again. It bloody worked!

All these years of trying! (I think I sound like I’ve just conceived…)

View to the beach from the floating platform

Half-way through my lessons, it was time to go to Malaysia, where it was Nasty’s turn to egg me.

He pushed me into swimming from the beach to the floating platform. The water was crystal clear and I could see coral and fish and sea urchins beneath me, and then I realised how deep the water was. I panicked and strangled him in the water but he still held me up. And then I calmed down and kept swimming. Sort of.

At the platform, he made me cannonball into the open sea. I made him promise that he’ll jump in after to save me. So I jumped. I came up and looked for him, but he was grinning down at me from the platform. I cursed him. He said he did say he’ll jump in after me, just not when. While I yelled at him, I realised I was treading water. I said “ASSHOLE!” but I couldn’t stop grinning.

After I came back from Malaysia, I resumed my swimming lessons. I kept panicking and wearing myself out in the sea because I was frantic-swimming. I wasn’t controlling my breathing nor my movements.

By then, the kiddies had finished and I was 1-on-1 with Teenage Coach for the whole 1.5 hours each time. He refined my technique and suddenly I wasn’t panic-swimming anymore. It was like…a religious epiphany!

Unsurprisingly, being able to swim good is hard. I run out of breath easily. At first, I couldn’t make it to the other side of the pool, which is 50m.

The front crawl is exhausting and the breast stroke took me a while because, simply, I have no coordination. I couldn’t get my arms and legs to work in time to each other.

But after some more practising and Teenage Coach trying not to laugh, I can now breaststroke from one end of the pool to the other and back (100m), which I am IMMENSELY proud of.

However, after receiving numerous eye rolls after gushing about it to my hockey teammates, I realise everyone else in the world seem to be able to swim 100m since probably being born.

But hey, it’s been a long time and I don’t care. I CAN SWIM! :D

To be precise, I was actually snorkelling here. But it'll do as a photo spot. ;)


7 thoughts on “Cannonballing into the world of swimming

  1. Awesome! This one of the coolest posts I have read in a while! Doing something like this is just pure courage and determination. I find swimming to be one of the most freeing and beautiful things, floating is like flying, and just submerging yourself is so peaceful. I hope swimming will give you as much joy as it has given me :)

  2. Wow, that was fast!

    Yeah, I agree. You just have to keep trying! It look me a LOOONG time, but I did get there! :D

    Do you dive? If you think swimming is beautiful and peaceful, you should try diving! It’s OUT OF THIS WORLD! And I hear South Africa is fabulous for diving too!

  3. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Where I write about not writing.

  4. I love this. I grew up knowing how to swim–we had a pool in the backyard, it was a health hazard not to know–but I never learned the proper stroke form because my mom had been a championship swimmer, like Olympic calibre, and I never wanted to compete with that. Played every other sport–soccer, basketball, cross-country, volleyball–but never swam. Finally last year I decided I was going to take the plunge, take lessons and learn the proper strokes, and start swimming for fitness. I am insanely proud of myself. Bravo you.

  5. Woaw!!! This is indeed a very nice decisive post!! It makes me want to go try something I can’t do!!!
    I’m really proud of you and the progress you made in swimming cause you wanted too!!! So lovely! I hope my boyfriend will have the seem attitude when he finally learns to swim (yes there are other people in the world that are adult and can’t swim).
    I’m really happy for you. Enjoy it!!! :-)

  6. well done! and no, 100 m is long. I have been swimming since I was a kid (well that’s the only sports I can do really) and I still can’t do 100 m front crawl (can’t as in I find it tiring and embarrassing cos I thought every time I did front crawl I was creating a fountain of some sort…)

  7. Awww….you guys are making grin and proud all over again!

    Smiley, I can’t imagine anyone not being just as proud when they finally know how to swim! I hope your boyfriend will be too!

    Mag, your fountain is hilarious! I can’t do 100m front crawl either. I can just about do 25m and that’s it. I’ve realised it’s a LOT more exhausting than the breaststroke. The front crawl makes me feel like I’m gonna go into one big fit of cramps from head to toe. Ugh.

    Shannon, wow, I do always wonder what I would if my parents were some fabulous sports person…would I run away from it? Or would I embrace it? But whatever, good on you for picking it up! I mean to swim for fitness too….but at the moment, putting on running shoes is simpler than getting on a bus to the local pool!

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