Summer swimming safety

Tips from Otters head coach on safety by the water this summer

Karen Fahrni, head coach with the Columbia Valley Otters Swim Club, knows so much about the potential for water danger that “it makes sitting at the beach unrelaxing.”

With 18 years as a swim coach and experience as lifeguard, she has managed “plenty of rescues” at the lake, in pools and wherever she goes to enjoy the water.

“We live in a lake community,” she said. “We’re always on bodies of water so I think it’s important for everyone to learn water safety.”

She recommends that when families go to the beach they make sure to keep small children within arms’ reach, that no one swims without a buddy, that everyone wears lifejackets when they’re on a boat and that swimmers be mindful of weather conditions, including wind, currents, brewing storms and water temperature. Swimming lessons and lifeguard training are also wise investments.

The non-profit swim club works with 450 swimmers a year and operates out of the Radium Hot Springs pool.

During the spring they hold discounted lessons for elementary schools across the Valley to bring students out.

Over the summer, the Columbia Valley Otters Swim Club will provide lessons for pre-schoolers to teenagers and offer lifeguard training for those aged twelve and up.

The club also offers leadership training and a year-round learn-to-swim program.

“I would encourage teenagers to get the proper training and be water smart,” she said. “Really (lifeguard training) is no different than getting your CPR or First Aid training.”

And that training can also help teenagers land their first jobs, she said, adding that many of the Valley’s lifeguards came through the club’s program.

Summer bookings are starting to fill up, so she encourages families to register now by visiting www.columbiavalleyswim.com.

Over nearly two decades as a coach, Coach Farhni has watched many reluctant young Otters who didn’t want to put their faces in the water grow into phenomenal swimmers, some of whom she coached at the provincial level.

Coach Fahrni feels lucky to watch the transformation as new swimmers gain confidence and find that they can indeed making it all the way across the pool and beat their best times.

“I love the kids. I love seeing their successes,” she said.

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