Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response:

1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary, or overlaid, function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.

2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.

3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.

4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.


read more here:

Scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that early swimming lessons were associated with a lower risk of drowning. “It’s hard to know if it’s the swimming lessons themselves that are beneficial,” Dr. Taneja said. “One could say, maybe the type of caregivers and parents that put children in swimming lessons are more vigilant.”

The parents who bring their children to swim lessons do seem to be vigilant and attentive. If the child is reluctant to swim that day, it is fine: I show the parent things they can do when the child is more comfortable to try things. It is great when the class has a group of children who meet regularly to learn to swim. I notice the reluctant ones do listen and observe, and they tend to try things out when they feel like it. I have returned to find the following week that the child has tried what we were working on, and they are proud that they got it.

But the statement that rings so true for me in these articles is: you must be attentive to the child always around water. Even if they seem good in water.


Hope to see you at Fifth Street Beach! I am teaching there for the Village of Greenport summer camp Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the free public swims are Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30pm to 6pm. All ages, all skill levels welcome.  Classes will be cancelled due to rain or after heavy rainfalls: please look to this blog for cancellation notices.  Thank you! feel free to write if you have any questions,


Igor in the NYTimes!

July 29, 2019

Thank you, Tugster, for the find:  Coach with Russian accent is in the news!

I miss the camaraderie with the swimmers, and I miss swimming with Igor. However, I am living a dream come true: I am teaching many kids and adults, and I so do love this. And I get to swim with Nature, in Nature:

I am dusting off this old blog I had created for my NYU classes. More postings to come!

Swim right, don’t let the finned ones bite. Love to all, Christina

Warmest congratulations to NY water swimmers, Rachel and Cristian! for yesterday, with two other swimmers, they swam the fierce Strait of Magellan where they braved waters of 40°, storms and currents.

La Prensa Austral

photo: La Prensa Austral

“our swim, assisted by the Armada de Punta Arenas and a wonderful armada of tonino– Magallanes dolphins– and penguins, was more than successful. it was positively magical, beginning with calm, then sandwiched between severe storms, ending in a tranquil sea with laughing dolphins accompanying the boats to shore.

Scott finished first in 1 hour, 18 minutes, Mark in 1 hour 38 minutes, Cristian in 1 hour 50 minutes after battling offshore currents, and I ended up last at 1 hour 53 minutes after an encounter with a whirlpool. Cristian and Mark arrived ashore just minutes before.”

Her fascinating account, Magellaniana, engages the senses, and might infect you, too, with the urge to commune with Nature in its rawest, most exhilarating form. An article about them from the NYTimes can be found here.

Below is a photo taken when we were dipping with the Coney Island Polar Bear’s New Year Plunge a few weeks ago. Rachel and Cristian are on the left. Center, is the ebullient and charismatic Lou of the Polar Bears, and to the right is Jonathan, who had been training for the Strait swim, but injured his shoulder. Rachel came in to take his place. They are among the hardy ones, who are out there in Coney Island every weekend.


If swimming our beautiful waters interest you, you can inquire at CIBBOWS — the Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers. You might have to wait until Cristian gets back from Chile, though!

As Lou likes to say: “Every day is a beach day!”

Congratulations, again! I am so thrilled for you, Swimmers!

cold water swimming

January 1, 2009

Are you interested in swimming in the sea? now? The temperature is in high 30’s, low 40’s–so, no complaining about the temperature in the Coles pool! In case you are curious:

1. You never get used to the cold. Some of the veteran Polar Bears will attest to this. And many still do not know why they continue to do it, week after week, for years. However, you can condition yourself…mentally. Polar Bears go in and play and have great fun. CIBBOWS (Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers) swim. Both groups meet saturdays and/or sundays.

2. Is it good for the health? well, what is poison to one is medicine to another. Only do it if the call cannot be ignored.

3. What to wear? once your head is wet, you lose heat incredibly quickly, so we go in with thick neoprene caps, or two swim caps. The feet get devastatingly cold, so go in with swim boots. CIBBOWS and Polar Bears go in without wetsuits.

4. Rush in or take your time? Polar Bears like to go in screaming and hooting. They laugh and jump and frollick. I like to go in slowly, while imaging that I’m raising my internal body temperature. Once my torso is in the water, I’ll dive in. I’ll have to ask CIBBOWS friends, and let you know, but none really go charging in.

5. What’s it like? every cell sings. Until they numb over. No–you are on another level. The water has a quality that seems to parallel your mind: clear, encompassing, forever. And cold. Did I forget to say cold?

6. How long do to stay in? only while it’s still fun! Really, leave the water while you’re still feeling comfortable. Once you are not feeling good, it’s a bit too late, for you still have the shivering stage to go through, where the cold goes into your core.

7. Upon coming out, take off every wet item as soon as possible. Cold wet things do not trap in heat, but sap it away; you’re better off with damp skin trying to warm itself up. Even little bikini pieces, if cold and wet: OFF!

8. Important: cold water hurts, but it’s the wind that kills. Cover up immediately with anything to prevent wind exposure. Polar Bears parade half naked across the beach, to the water and back. I can’t do that; my coat is right there at the water’s edge.

9. Shivering: it is your body’s way to get you warmed up. It can feel awful. There’s no position where this feels good–lying down, jumping around–none. You just have to go through it, and it helps to know you’re not the only one.

Yes! it is exhilarating. Write me if you’d like to come out and someone will be with you if it’s your first time.

Float, face down.

Are you able to float? are you relaxed on the water? Your weight should feel evenly distributed, as the water holds you up.

Focus on your abdomen, not the top part of your body. If your legs are sinking, think of your abs as the middle of a seesaw, and push down on the top part of your body (using shoulders as a point to concentrate on). The top part is a unit: head, neck, shoulders–if you are a good seesaw. Be careful not to stick your butt up.

It does not work if you just stick your head down! if your legs are sinking, bending forward is not the solution: your top will float up, and your legs will sink even faster!

Banana up! If the legs sink, push down on the top part.

…now, on the back!

October 22, 2008

Lie back on the water.

If you do it correctly, it is relaxing, and you can zen out and float until your head bonks against the wall or lane line. Lengthen the back of your neck, feel like the water supports you, like you are on a bed, and look straight up at the moist dripping ceiling. Or, the underside of a seagull.

The trick is to push your hips up. Squeeze your buttocks slightly, and pop up the hips. Once you have the hips up, then worry about the legs rising up. If this is new for you, take a breath, hold your nose, and just go underwater, on your back, face and all. Push your hips up, and let it happen slowly, find your neutrally buoyant position slowly.

Don’t tilt your head so far back that you’re looking at the other side of the pool underwater! Water will go up your nose in a most unagreeable manner. Lay your head back as if you were resting it on a pillow, looking up at the ceiling. Touch chin to chest to lengthen the back of your neck.

You will sink if you let your hips drop. Keep the hips up! Put a goldfish cracker on your belly and stick it up for the seagull to pick up.

the strokes

October 20, 2008

In competitive swimming, there are four strokes, and in individual medley (IM), the order is: 1) butterfly, 2) backstroke, 3) breaststroke, and 4) freestyle. However, this is not the sequence I will teach them to you! Following, below, are the strokes in the order you will learn them, and some good drills…

free style

October 19, 2008

The Stroke

In recovery, keep your elbow high with your wrist and hand relaxed until it enters the water.
Enter thumbs first, pinkie up—do not smash down—and extend your hand in front of your shoulder, not in front of your head. (*Note: Igor says Thumbs first. I feel: do what feels natural, focusing on core pull.)
Keeping the elbow high under the water, use the full surface area from the fingertips and hand to the forearm to catch water and pull strongly back, under your body towards your hip. Keep your strokes even and smooth, do not pause. Do not drop your elbow to glide!! Gliding is not the same as slicing forward to grab water.

Head and Breathing
Look down towards the bottom of the pool. Don’t lift your head to breathe, but roll the head with your body to the side, thinking of clearing the chin out of the water to breathe, not the whole head. This is easier if you focus on keeping the top of your head in the water. Try to breathe so one goggle stays under the water. Very important: make sure you breathe air OUT. New air cannot come in if you don’t get rid of the old air to make room for it!

Tighten your abdominal muscles and arch back slightly to keep your legs high. Don’t stick your rump up. Lengthen out to streamline yourself. Rotate from the core – hips.

Kick small and quickly, in a driving rhythm. The power is from the hips, not knees. The ankles are flexible, and the kick is more like a whip, as if you had to shake off a shoe or sandal, or you are shaking a bug off your foot.