Competitive Swimming

How I came to love Competitive Swimming

And So I Became A Competitive Swimmer…….

For me, growing up in the country meant that the local swimming pool was only open 6 months of the year from the October long weekend until the Easter long weekend. If we were to be competitive swimmers we had only 6 months to train and prove it. Our city cousins had it all over us country kids because they could train 12 months of the year, but being kids we didn’t know any better. We were in our own bubble and the kids I trained with loved what we did, water was our element.


The hardest and most prestigious part of the 6 months training was to be the first one to “break the ice”. On the first icy morning of the new season, it was a competition; who would be the first to run from the front gate to the pool as it opened and jump into the freezing water, ‘breaking the ice’ with a huge splash… In my day there were no pool covers and October was a cold month. Sometimes the water would be so chilly you would get a “brain ache” similar to when you drink an ice cold drink too quickly.Also in my day, we had no goggles and very few kids had swimming caps. After morning training, it was usual to lie for a few minutes on the lounge with cucumber slices over your eyes to try and alleviate the chlorine sting before attempting to concentrate at school for the day.

Competitive Swimmers

As a competitive swimmer, I loved swimming in carnivals. We would travel long distances by bus to the competitions. I often competed in Sydney through the school championships. Homebush Aquatic Centre did not exist then and we competed in the North Sydney Pool on the Harbour. Beautiful but again, not heated!!! AND it is a salt water pool so we floated very well. Perhaps the buoyancy helped with our fast times.

Competitive Swimming for Kids

So once your children have learned to swim well here with us at Swim For Your Life, being a competitive swimmer is one avenue for them. For some children, its a wonderful way to increase their confidence in the water and feel the thrill of competition. Who knows, maybe they will delight in being the first to ‘break the ice’ on that first cold training day.

Little Nippers

The Nipper Dad

From The Swim For Your Life Art Series

This painting for me symbolizes the Aussie Sunday. Mum’s and Dad’s leading their charges to the beaches, through the sand, over the dunes, and into a usually rough surf and burning sand.

When I was a kid there was not the opportunity for being involved in Nippers. You joined the Surf Club at 14 years old when you could get your Bronze Medallion. I may have mentioned before that I am a farmer’s daughter and therefore we lived 1 hour  from the beach at this time.

With surf patrols starting at 8am I don’t know how my parents worked “farmers hours” all week, and  had us up with the birds to get 4 children to the beach. To me it showed great commitment. It also demonstrated the importance they placed on this amazing voluntary organisation.

I excelled in this environment as a young girl with some talent in the water and loads of energy. I’d like to think that in some small way, the women I joined the Surf Club with back in 1984 when girls were allowed to compete, helped pave the way for what we now call Iron Women competitions. In my day, you competed against the boys in the Iron Man if you wanted to have a go. I always had a go!

Surf Life Saving

I did become the Nipper Mum when our son turned 8. Not the organiser of the age group but due to my love of the water I was one of the Water Safety people which was great. Floating around in the ocean waiting for the kids to wade and swim around us was great fun and rewarding.

Little Nippers Surfing Brings Joy To Kids

I also remember hours spent holding small children on small light weight malibou surf boards, pushing them through the break and then trying to help get them onto a good wave back to shore. Most times they came unstuck but every now and then they would manage to hold on and make it to shore.

The delight in their eyes at that moment was priceless. Unfortunately our son’s career as an Iron Man lasted 2 summers and at the old age of 10, decided it wasn’t for him. He started tennis!

Little Nippers

Fond Memories Of The Surf Life Saving Club

I have missed the Surf Life Saving Club and would suggest that not continuing would be one of my big regrets. I would definitely encourage teenagers to join Surf Club’s as it is such a healthy and sometimes physically demanding pursuit that it can keep them too tired for anything else!

Happy Surfing.


Autism Treatment – This Program Teaches Children with Autism how to Swim.

Swimming lessons are a valuable and important key in keeping all kids safe from drowning; however it’s especially vital for children with autism to learn how to swim. A recent study on the mortality rates of kids with autism found that they are a whopping 160 times more likely to drown than neurotypical children. This highlights the need for more education and a better understanding to tackle the problem before it becomes serious.

A successful swimming program for children with disabilities is one run by Autism Swim (AS) who are a National Water Safety and Swimming Specialists for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).


Children with Autism

Autism Swim (AS) is a multi-disciplinary national organisation offering highly specific training, support, consultancy and resources to swim centre’s, swim instructors,  NFP organisations, water-based organisations, schools and families that have, or wish to provide for, students with ASD and/or cognitive deficits.



Life Saving Autism Treatment

Accidental drowning accounted for approximately 90% of total U.S deaths reported in children with autism under 14 years of age, between 2009-2011. This translates to children with autism being 160 times more likely to die from drowning compared to other children. The statistics are from the USA as Australia does not seem to notice the problem and statistics have not been collected as yet.

Autism Treatment

AS have a multi-disciplinary team on hand, including Autism Specialists, Behaviour Specialists, Occupational Therapists, Exercise Specialists and Swim Instructors.


This is a relatively new organization and one that needs your attention. Check it out on the web.


Water polo

The Art Of Water Polo

The Swim For Your Life Art Series

We’re featuring a collection of artworks in our swim for your life art series, each piece represents a water-related happening in Ruth Smith’s life. Below is ‘The Art Of Water Polo’ story.

I was about 14 years old when my local swimming pool, in Wingham, decided to have a water polo competition on Sunday afternoons. Just a few people getting together who had played a bit before moving to the town and anyone else who wanted to give it a go. Of course, I turned up….anything in a body of water and I’m there.

By the end of the first summer, we had a full on competition with 10 teams. We had raised money for goals, hats, even a Wingham Water polo t-shirt. It was great!! Although not a sport for the fragile.

Womens Water Polo

Women’s Water Polo Photo: Getty Images

Not everyone could see what was happening under the water line. Least of all the referees. With all the splashing, on purpose or not, the underwater antics were vicious at times. Swimming attire would constantly be reefed up one’s body in such a manner that we often considered just wearing a G-string bottom. The knee length swimmers of today would have been appreciated back then.

The funny hats were an absolute God-send. I certainly would not like to be hit in the ear with a ball thrown at high speed. It was bad enough when it hit you on your forehead. We all had to take our turn at being the goalie. Now that’s a tough gig. Being able to raise your body so far out of the water to stop a speeding ball towards the goal, is not easy.

Swimming polo-stroke at speed for 10-15 meters is also a skill which we practiced. To help build the strength in us, my coach would make us swim across the 6 lane pool and climb out. Dive in, climb out, and repeat. However, the climb out was nothing like a climb. We had to put both hands on the edge of the pool and move in such a way that the next thing to hit the pool edge was our feet. It was more like a jump out onto our feet. No elbow or knee to help us.

While physically a demanding sport, I loved it. I went on to actually teach a young boy to swim in Wingham who also played water polo at a high level. He went on to become an Assistant Coach to the Olympic Water Polo men’s team.

Aussie Stingers vs Aussie Barbarians Video

Swimming lessons lead to fun water activities

The one valuable lesson I can say I’ve taken away from all my years of swimming lessons and training is that it can lead to many fun water activities and help improve confidence, my water polo days leave me with priceless memories.

High-quality consistent lessons lead to confidence in the water and participation in water sports. If you’re interested in finding out more about our swimming lessons and programs you can call us on 6680 1614 or alternatively fill in our contact form for a prompt response.


Halliwick and Disabled Swimmers

The Halliwick Concept and the Benefits of Aquatic Therapy Exercises

It was while I was completing my first degree at Wollongong University, Sports Science, that I was involved with working with people with disabilities in the water. I took an elective which involved this work and I never looked back.

Working with hydro therapists, physios, special education teachers and great teachers of swimming, I found a world I enjoyed. This lead me to do further study in Halliwick, which is a specific method of working with people with disabilities in the water. Mainly severely physically disabled. The Halliwick Method originated in Austria and I was lucky enough to attend workshops by James McMillan who developed the techniques. My luck continued when I worked in a swimming club devoted to people with disabilities in London. I learnt so much.

The belief of “The Halliwick Concept” is that significant benefits can be gleaned from water  activities, and in turn has influenced aquatic therapy.

Rotational control is the most important part of the Halliwick 10 point program. This program provides the relevant learning fundamentals that are required the achieve the benefits.

The benefits are social, recreational, physical, personal and therapeutic and can help kids and adults with both physical and metal disabilities.

The technique was cited by Susan J Grosse in 1986 as " Water Freedom for the Handicapped"

Benefits such as:

  1. Learning to react appropriately in the water.
  2. The ability to control left- right movements.
  3. The ability to control movements such as, lying down, standing up and rocking in a chair.
  4. Rolling over from supine to supine.
  5. The ability to control a corkscrew movement.
  6. Understanding that water supports the body and you won’t sink.

As has been mentioned before, the paintings which hang on the walls of the swim school are snap shots of all the things I have been able to do because I learnt to swim. Working with people with disabilities in the water is a pure gift and one I will continue to be involved with.



"The Halliwick Method" by James McMillan

Why did i become a lifeguard


I was blessed with the country secondary schooling I had. At Wingham High it was compulsory in the summer that the whole school would walk to the local pool and participate in swimming for sport. Our local pool was not heated and we could only swim in the summer months. As I was a very proficient swimmer, along with 3-4 others, we started doing our Royal Life Saving medallions and certificates.

First the Bronze Star, then the Bronze Medallion, Bronze Cross, Award of Merit, until I was the last one standing with another year of High School and another chance to get the top Royal Life Saving Society Award….The Distinction Award. It is an interesting exercise to look up these awards and understand what is required to pass them. Different rescues are learnt, detailed theory demanding high level understanding and a challenging swimming component. This was always a long distance swim made up of normal swimming and life-saving techniques as well which had to be done within a certain time frame. I had to go to Sydney to actually sit the theory component of the Distinction Award which was very daunting. I did get the award which was a very proud moment. I loved doing the awards and was very thankful to my school for making swimming a compulsory sport in our summers. And so, with all this knowledge and life saving techniques learnt,

I became a Lifeguard, initially around a pool and soon after at the beach. I preferred being on duty at the beach and would encourage anyone to get involved in that world, especially as a teenager.

The Royal Life Saving Society was formed in NSW in 1894 and in 1924 a dual system of lifesaving was established with Surf Life Saving Australia being responsible for ocean beaches and the Royal Life Saving Society Australia responsible for all other waterways. So we can see, from very early on, Australia took the safety of others in and around water, extremely seriously.

bronze-cross bronze-star-royal-lifesaving-societybronze-cross-fabric bronze-medallion

Swimming Stories


When you come to Swim For Your Life at Billinudgel you will see 10 paintings adorning the walls of the swim school. They tell the stories of my own swimming and all that I have done with it, when I learnt to SWIM WELL.

While my first foray into water is not hanging on the wall, it perhaps helped shape my long affiliation with water. My mum would lovingly tell the story that would happen every time the phone rang. While mum answered the phone, I would sneak into the bathroom, turn the bath taps on and get in clothes and all. I was 3! I remember burning my big toe as I had not worked out the cold tap that day.

So each month I will share the stories of the paintings and in so doing, hope to inspire our little swimmers to do something wonderful with their new skill of swimming. While this first story may not seem ‘wonderful’ it is a story worthy of hanging on the wall.

And so my love of water began early. I started training in the local swimming pool when I was 6 which, in those days, was 33 yards long. I still do not understand why it was only 33 yards but eventually it was lengthened to 50 meters.

As I am the youngest of 4 children, money was tight sometimes. The 4 of us swam and the training fees mounted up. As I got older it became my job to vacuum the swimming pool in lieu of my training fees. Mind you a 50 mtr pool takes a while to clean!!! Now I think about it, I don’t remember my siblings working their training fees off! Luckily for me, the pool was outdoor and therefore only open for 6 months of the year…..this meant only 25 vacuums!!! I got Christmas week off. I also got to keep any coins which lay on the bottom of the pool!

The job did not deter me from my swimming and perhaps it could be seen these days as ‘cross training’.


painting of pool at swimming lessons byron bay

Painting of  Ruth Smith in a diving bell vacuuming the pool.

Keep watch this summer

Matt Preston urges families to keep watch this summer


Matt Preston from “The words most costly pizzasays the truth is that last summer 14 children drowned in Australian backyard swimming pools., most often due to every day distraction. Distractions like simply going inside to check the oven, theirs no splash no cry for help. In less than 60 seconds a child can drown and the true cost of that pizza. It’s not just food that can distract, theres answering the door changing a nappy, making a cup of tea even just nipping to the bathroom. All of these distractions have tragically cost the life of a child over the past ten years not to mention others left with permanent brain damage. All these drownings and brain injuries entirely preventable with proper supervision. Not one outdoor pool is worth a child’s life.

So please this summer “Keep Watch No Matter What”



Images courtesy of Royal Lifesaving

Water Safety Warnings After Tragic drownings

Seven Drownings in the past week

Today we were reminded  by Simone Fox Koob from the Australian  about the importance of water safety for both non swimmers and swimmers.  We  have also  included The Royal Lifesaving Society ‘s tips below. As most of us are enjoying our holidays we should all remain mindful of being safe in the water. If you are with family and friends you can ask these questions 1. Who is allocated to supervise the group and what are there competencies in the water. 2. What is the  swimming ability of both Adults and children in the group.  3. Who are the competent swimmers in the group.

The Royal Life Saving Society has some great tips of  Water Safety during the summer for toddlers here.


Keep Watch Action - Supervision

Keep Watch Action – Supervision courtesy of Royal Lifesaving

Active supervision means focusing all of your attention on your children all of the time, when they are in, on or around the water. Supervision is not an occasional glance while you are busy with other activities, but being in constant visual contact with your child.

Depending on your child’s age, you may even need to be in the water and within arms reach at all times. For older children, be ready to enter the water in case of an emergency.

Parents are busy and often try to do many things at once to save time. But when you multi-task you can too easily become distracted and not give your full attention to the safety of your children.

Older children too are not equipped to deal with the responsibility of supervising children. It is an adult’s job and children of any age should never be burdened with the responsibility.

Royal Life Saving believes that one of the smartest ways to supervise children is to have a designated supervisor. Responsibility can be rotated and if there is a large number of children to supervise, leave an adult stationed at each different place where the children will play, to monitor that area effectively.


Seven drownings prompt urgent police warning on water safety

Seven NSW drownings in the past week have brought an ­urgent warning from police, in the lead-up to a statewide heatwave, for holiday-makers to stay out of the water if they don’t know how to swim.

Sergeant Paul Farquharson, of the NSW Marine Area Command said yesterday the drownings were tragic for both victims’ families and police officers who spent their Christmas recovering bodies and delivering the bad news to relatives.

“It’s upsetting and frustrating for the police to have to try to recover these people, search for these people, and then deliver those messages to the families that their loved ones have died,” he said.

“ The police haven’t been home to their families … They have been out looking for those of others who have become lost in the water systems.”

The body of a 25-year-old man was found yesterday in the Nepean River, near Greendale in western Sydney, after he was reported missing on Monday.

On Monday Geoffrey Blackadder, 60, from Grafton, tried to help save four children caught in a flash rip at Wooli Beach on the northern NSW coast.

Mr Blackadder was brought unconscious from the water by two lifeguards but after 50 minutes of CPR could not be revived.

Also on Monday, a 56-year-old man died at Merry Beach, on the NSW south coast; and a 27-year-old man drowned while swimming in a river at a picnic ground at Bendeela, in the Kangaroo Valley. On Christmas Day a 29-year-old Nepalese man drowned at Wattamolla lagoon at the Royal National Park, south of Sydney.

Police said a man drowned about 3pm yesterday in ocean baths at The Entrance on the ­central coast.

Last season, there were 53 coastal drownings in NSW.

 Quoted from “The Australian”
Water Safety on the holidays. Police recover the body of a man from the Nepean River

Police recover the body of a man from the Nepean River. Picture: John Fotiadis

How to Anti Fog Swimming Goggles



How To Anti Fog Goggles

Goggles are a great invention for swimmers. They protect your eyes from damage and allow you to see where you’re going underwater. I use to train and compete in the pool in the days when caps and goggles were never seen or used. Blood shot eyes at school was the norm. But these days there must be 50 plus different styles, shapes, colours of goggles one can choose from.

BUT, they usually ‘fog up’. Most goggles you can buy have a coating already on them preventing fogging, but the coating doesn’t last as long as the goggles do. The anti-fog coating can easily be wiped off and before you know it, your goggles have become foggy before you get to the other end of the pool.

What to do about this irritating problem??? You can buy an anti-fog spray and liquid and apply regularly to the goggles as per the directions of use. Does it work? In my experience, not very well.

Over my years of teaching and swimming I have come across a few varied ways by which people keep their goggles from fogging up. I will share them here.

  1. Baby shampoo – apply a small drop of the shampoo to the inside of the goggles, wipe the lens and then buff for clear vision. The baby shampoo is used as it is gentle on eyes anyway.
  2. Shaving cream – apply a small drop of shaving cream to the inside of the lens, wipe and buff again preventing fogging. I have not used this method personally but know others have.
  3. MY FAVOUITE and very cost effective. Good old saliva. Lick or spit on the inside of your goggle lens, rub with your finger and rinse. While this is a temporary solution, it is one that can be used on the go. At either end of the pool and while the teacher/coach is giving instructions.

Try these out next time and see which works for you.

Happy Swimming.