Half the population admits to being afraid of deep water in pools. Still others – comfortable in a pool -- fear to venture into the open ocean. And of drownings, three-fourths are adults.
Melon Dash, founder of Miracle Swimming in Sarasota, teaches adults to overcome their fear of water. It’s been 30 years since she devised her swim instruction methodology – unique in the world. In that time, Melon has brought thousands of men and women from sheer terror of water to perfect comfort in both pools and the open ocean – including SCUBA certification.
Melon Dash, miracle worker.
Melon’s approach is like no other. Forget burying your face in the water and blowing bubbles. Forget learning strokes. Her students learn to be calm and comfortable in water -- of any depth.
She breaks instruction down to tiny, detailed steps. And students don’t move on to the next step until it sounds like fun to do so. It seems to be counter-intuitive, but it works -- for more than 4,000 adult students during Melon’s career.
No one feared water more than my wife. Jo Anne couldn’t even put her face under the shower.
But she wanted to learn. So she found Emma, an accomplished competitive swimmer on Cape Cod who assured Jo Anne that she could teach her.
Emma took it slow. In their initial class, the two women sat at the side of the pool and Jo Anne dripped cupped hands of water over her shoulders, arms and cheeks.
After two summers of weekly lessons, Jo Anne was able to float on her back with Emma’s hands inches beneath her.
Then Jo Anne found Melon’s week-long Beginner class.
The miracle began with Jo Anne bursting into tears because she couldn’t bring herself to put her face into the water. Melon said that she had done exactly the right thing by refusing to put her face into the water if it didn’t “sound like fun.” If Jo Anne had forced herself, she would have taken a step back, not forward.
That’s Melon’s style. Step by detailed step. No keeping up with the class. No pressure. Nothing forced. Everything fun. And it works miracles.
Jo Anne completed the Beginner class, then progressed through Next-Step and Freestyle classes.
During the Freestyle class, she came down with the flu and had to observe the learning process from poolside. Each evening she practiced on the bed in her hotel room what the other students had done that day in the pool. On the last day of the class, she felt healthy enough to enter the water -- and she did this:
From there it was the Beginning Snorkeling class in Hawaii and Next-step Snorkeling in Grand Turk, where she swam over to its famous “Wall” and peered into an abyss 7,000 feet deep.
Along her journey to freedom in water, Jo Anne was faced with emerging medical problems serious enough to warrant continuing treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – with the attendant regimen of CT and Pet scans, oral and infused medications.
Jo Anne, from fear to freedom.
Which explains why, during a recent chat with Melon, Jo Anne said of her love of snorkeling: “Nothing can get to me there. I feel safe. I watch the fish and forget everything else.”
“Did you hear what you just said?” Melon caught her. “You feel safe in the water.”
In my next blog: “The Miracle Swim Master of Sarasota, Part 2”