The first 'ocean swimming baths' are thought to have been opened in Sydney's Woolloomooloo in 1833. Prior to this opening, 'swimming' took place in the ocean itself, albeit rarely and at considerable risk because very few people actually knew how to swim.
In addition, it was actually illegal to swim in the ocean or harbour during daylight hours.
Things have changed a bit since then — with more and more houses having private backyard pools, and public swimming pools and an aquatic centre on almost every corner, and open year-round thanks to indoor and heated pools.
Owing to the importance placed on water safety skills and learning to swim in a land of beaches and sunshine, swimming classes in Sydney are easy to come by and cater for all levels, from babies and children to adult beginners and Olympic hopefuls.
Keep reading to find out a little about the NSW capital's Olympic stories and where to start looking for swimming classes in Sydney.
Sydney's Olympic History
Sydney produced the first three Australians to compete in Olympic swimming events — Frederic Lane (in 1900, Paris) and Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie (in 1912, Stockholm). Since then, the city has gone from strength to strength, producing many Olympic swimming champions.
Swimming outperforms every other sport when it comes to Olympic medal tallies with Australia being known for its swimming strength.
The greatest female swimmer in Australia, Dawn Fraser, learnt how to swim at the Balmain Baths in Sydney's west when she was four years of age. In her swimming career, she won 8 Olympic medals and set 39 world records.
Fraser was the first athlete (male or female) to win a gold medal for the same event (100 metres freestyle) over three consecutive Olympics (Melbourne, Rome and Tokyo) — and she was also the first woman to break one minute in the same race, holding that world record for 15 years.
Dawn Fraser was almost as famous for her swimming as she was for her 'larrikinism' — in fact, she was banned for 10 years after the 1964 Olympics for wearing an unofficial swimsuit and stealing a flag (among other things). Despite this, she remains Australia's most loved Olympic hero.
Sydney 2000 Olympics
Not the first Olympic Games to be held in Australia, with games being held in Melbourne in 1956, the Sydney 2000 Olympics was certainly the most globally recognised because of technological advancements.
It was also hailed the 'best games ever' and for swimmers it certainly was with a record total of 18 medals won by Australia in the pool (beaten in Beijing, eight years later, with 20 medals achieved).
Olympic Park continues to be a huge tourism drawcard — not least with the state of the art aquatic centre in full operation.
Learning to swim is one of the most important skills there is, and it's never too late to learn. When you do a search for 'swimming classes Sydney', the results are pages long — how do you choose? The first thing to check is whether the swimming teachers are Austswim accredited.
Here are a few options to get you started, whether you're looking for lessons for babies, children or adults — beginners to stroke and technique development or elite programs.
Swimming Lessons in North Sydney
If you're after private adult swimming lessons in North Sydney, you can't go past AquaMobile Home Swim Lessons. The teachers at this swim school come to you to conduct lessons in your home pool or a nearby public swimming pool.
Private lessons mean the student is the focus and teaching will centre around your needs, whether that be water confidence, safety skills, stroke development, general fitness or specialised training programs.
Carlile Swimming has been teaching swim lessons for 65 years and is considered the top swimming school in Sydney - providing beginners lessons, stroke development and squad activities for every age and level, including babies and toddlers, school-age children, teens and adults. There are six locations, most of which are within the North Sydney region.
Families looking for parent and child swimming lessons in North Sydney are often directed to Aquabliss, which has facilities in the north and north-west. Like most other swim schools, Aquabliss offers a wide range of private lessons and group classes for every age and level from beginners to elite swimmers.
Learn to Swim in Western Sydney
The Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre was the venue for swimming events, as well as diving, synchronised swimming and water polo during the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Today, it has the largest swim school in NSW, seeing over 4000 students a term, from babies as young as 3 months of age to adult swimmers at every level.
Fun Fitness Swim School is another swimming school in Sydney (Croydon) with a family-oriented feel. Featuring an indoor, heated mineral salt pool, teaching focuses on developing water confidence, safety and development of stroke techniques at the level of each student.
Founded in 1951, the Parramatta Swim Club is one of the oldest freshwater swimming clubs in Australia. Family friendly, the club caters for swimmers of all abilities with racing, squad training programs and learn to swim programs for children and adults, which are free once you've registered with NSW Swimming.
Swim Classes in Southern Sydney
Focusing exclusively on learn to swim classes, AustGrade Swim School in Mascot has a heated mineral saltwater indoor pool, known to be better for the skin of young children — important given that lessons are taught with babies as young as 4 months of age. Swimmers up to primary age children are catered for; there are no adult swimming lessons available.
South Sydney Swim Development is another mobile swimming school in Sydney, catering for southern Sydney suburbs and providing private and small group swim classes at a location of your choice, including the beach for water safety and ocean swimming lessons.
A focus on kids doing amazing things is what the teachers at Southern Swim School are all about. Starting with their foundations class, teaching water confidence for babies, through to technique and stroke development strands, kids have fun while improving their skills in and around water.
Swimming School in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs
Experienced and accredited teachers and small class sizes make Kick Learn to Swim classes fun for children of every age from 6 months. Ideal for kids who lack confidence in the water, they quickly start to see themselves as swimmers, which helps to develop technique and other skills necessary to ensure safety in water play situations.
Located in Bondi, Mermaid Swim Academy offers both traditional swim lessons — from beginners to older children wanting to perfect their stroke style and development — as well as 'open water tuition' including surf awareness and surf swimming. The academy offers the perfect environment to combine learning with fun.
Another mobile swim school, Swim Recruit, services the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, teaching babies from 6 months of age to adults. Apart from the classes for babies, all other classes for children are limited to two students (all primary level classes), while adult classes can be one-to-one or in small groups if preferred.
The Private Lesson vs. the Group Class
As I child in Canberra, I remember clearly the two weeks of every year my school would bus us, shivering in our swimmers, to the local pool where we would be given a 45-minute swimming lesson (by an instructor who seemed to be only a few years older than us) in group sizes of 20 or more. After the lesson, we had to put our clothes over our wet swimmers then sit, still shivering and with hair dripping, on the bus back to school.
Did we learn to swim?
In fact, in my case, all I learned was to be petrified of swimming. I still don't like it much.
Luckily, these days group swimming classes — even the ones organised by schools — are much smaller and have more emphasis placed on safety and the development of confidence.
However, there are many kids who still don't thrive in that environment and seem to make little progress. These are the kids who would probably benefit most from private one-on-one lessons where they can build up trust and a rapport with their teacher and develop confidence in the water.
Essentially, learning to swim is like anything else — you need to understand how you, or your child, learns the best.
I knew that the stronger that I was, the faster I was going to swim, and thats all I had in my mind at the time, was I wanted to be the best swimmer in the world.
~ Dawn Fraser ~
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