More than half of all Americans can’t swim, and the Red Cross — with help from a new partnership with Speedo — is hoping to change that. Starting next year, Speedo USA will be the organization’s exclusive licensee in the Begin to Swim category, with items bearing the official mark of the Red Cross.
The Begin to Swim line includes three levels of products, including flotation support for a child’s first time in the water; support for a child already familiar with the water to build confidence and support development of beginning swimming skills; and developing technique, which helps kids develop independent skills with minimal support.
Earlier this month, the Red Cross, the largest provider of water instruction, launched a new national campaign to reduce the drowning rate by 50% in 50 cities over the next three to five years. It says its survey, taken to mark the group’s 100th anniversary of swim education, reveals that more than half of all Americans can’t swim or perform basic swim safety skills.
The scary thing is that people tend to believe they are better swimmers than they really are. About 80% say they can swim, but many are unable to do the five basic skills that can save lives: Step or jump into the water over your head; return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute; turn around in a full circle and find an exit; swim 25 yards to the exit; and exit from the water. If in a pool, you must be able to exit without using the ladder. The survey says 54% either can’t swim or don’t have all of those basic swimming skills.
Despite that, swimming is the fastest-growing fitness activity, across all age groups. The Sports and Fitness Industry Association says participation rose in total, casual, and core levels. Some 23.3 million people swam for fitness at least once in 2012, the latest year for which statistics are available, a 7.9% increase. (Casual participation rose 7.6%, and core involvement — those who swam 50 or more times in the year — jumped 8.4%.)
“Speedo is committed to swimmers of all ages and all levels,” says Jim Gerson, president of Speedo USA, which is owned by PVH Corp. “And swim safety is one of the most important things we can help teach.”