Page banner image
Home > Survival > Lessons

Survival Swimming Lesson Plans

Inexperienced people often drown because they never learned how to swim in clothes. Our lessons address this problem in a fun and entertaining way.

Most lifesaving activities and watersports involve getting wet from spray or going into the water, sometimes often, sometimes only occasionally. The point of this training is to get you familiar with your watersport clothing and lifeguard kit.

These lessons should be enjoyed fully clothed to build water confidence and supervised by lifeguards. Check that everybody in your class has at least one full set of clothing to swim in and one dry set for their way home. For hygiene reasons always shower in your training clothes before each session. Lifeguards will check for dry spots.

Function and comfort are as important as rescue preparedness and familiarity. Swimming in your clothes is great fun to learn and practice before you go for any adventures. Once you've carefully chosen your adventure kit, put it on and jump into a local swimming pool, to prepare for wild open water.

First Lesson

Primary Focus: The first session teaches how to move in the water, keep your balance and enjoy swimming.

Student Goals: To overcome anxiety and learn proper breath control, comfort with submersion, independent floating on the front and back, independent kicking to and from the wall, roll onto the backside as a place of safety, and elementary backstroke.

Start with light clothing, then jogging suits or tracksuits, and finally a canoeing cag/anorak with spray deck. Take time to focus on individual skills instead of one overwhelming exercise.

Build up your fitness levels and water confidence as you socialise with others in this fun activity. Laughter is a good way to release some of the tension. When scared or nervous, most people tense up, losing their ability to react to the water. Shake it off, dance it out, have a giggle or smile. Remember, we do this because it is fun.

Better swimming lessons start easy and get progressively harder when they include elements of survival swimming. Clothing is used for realistic lessons and training to be prepared for an eventual emergency. The Dutch Zwem ABC is the probably the best programme that uses this approach.

Beginners Class

Primary Focus: Teach the main swimming strokes and skills needed to stay safe.

Student Goals: This foundational swim class is for beginner students to achieve comfort with basic swim skills.

During theory training we explore water safety and what swimming strokes work best in various situations. Explain how different types of clothing affect their swimming abilities and how to cope with this.

Then hop into the pool, dressed in minimal swimwear (T-shirts and shorts) and practice the various swimming strokes. At the end of the lesson give a preview of the "Intermediate" lesson where they can put on extra clothes.


Primary Focus: Teach proficiency in advanced aquatic skills and swimming strokes, and how to gain control of breathing for underwater swimming. It is for students with no anxiety when submerging or floating on their backs.

Student Goals: To efficiently move through the water demonstrating confidence of breath control, freestyle and backstroke.

The theory includes an overview of various rescue techniques. Try on different kit and learn how to wear it in a safe way. Then go into the pool fully clothed, with jeans and hoodies over shorts and sports shirts or pullovers. This simulates a situation where the may fall into the water, or go for a swim on an adventure trek.

Practice a variety self rescue skills, including what to do when you break into ice. Show ways to rescue others, even using clothes as towing tool. Swimming 300 meters, push-ups and sit-ups on pool side and a lot of climbing out and jumping in is all part of the fun. Finally round off the lesson with a few pool games to get used to swimming fully clothed.


Primary Focus: Teach about adventure trekking and how to stay safe in the water.

Student Goals: Work in a team, learn the use of various equipment and gear.

A variety of outdoor skills and hiking outfits get explored. Teach how to pack a waterproof rucksack with the dry essentials, while swimming in all the clothes that can get wet or dry quickly. The trick is to keep the bag's inside dry while they swim 100 meters.

Finally teach how to handle inflatable boats, capsize and climb in again, and other exercises and games. This is quite exhausting due to the heavy waterlogged clothes, but huge fun. It involves getting out and changing into different kit a few times. Rain clothes also cause more drag when swimming, especially ponchos.


Primary Focus: Prepare non-swimmers for an emergency by making them familiar with the feel of clothes in the water.

Student Goals: Build confidence to handle a dangerous situation and avoid trouble.

In an emergency you may not have a choice of swimwear, so we practise it with different clothes in a safe and stressfree environment. Don't worry, this is quite a pleasant experience and requires no swimming skills.

Recommended clothes for your first time:

  • T-shirt and shorts or leggings
  • Tracksuit or unlined rain pants
  • Anorak or hoodie, thin and unlined
Make sure it fits well and doesn't move too much when wet. Wear it first in your shower or bath at home. A waistband or belt will keep your pants in place. Avoid any lined garments as they fill up with air or water pockets. Feel free to add more clothing as your confidence grows. Try out different kinds of clothes to gain a more varied experience.

At the shallow end sit on the edge and dangle your legs in the water. Feel the resistance your clothes make as you move your feet. Next lower yourself into to the water and wade until you're in about chest deep. Move around until you gain full confidence wearing your clothes in the water.

Now take a deep breath and duck under. Float underwater for a moment. Notice that clothes will slow you down, but not pull you down. You may even get a lift from trapped air pockets.

 About   Fitness   Survival   Lifesaving