Swim Amelia Swim Offers Affordable Private Swimming Lessons in Fernandina Beach

Swim Amelia Swim offers lessons in this pool on Amelia Island.

Swim Amelia Swim offers lessons in this pool in Fernandina Beach.

Looking for private swimming lessons at an affordable price on Amelia Island?

Swim Amelia Swim may be a perfect fit. We talked to the owner, Patricia Sheppard, about the business that offers lessons for all ages, from infants to the elderly, including those with special needs.

With decades of experience, Sheppard told us, “This is my retirement. I just love it!”

Q: How did Swim Amelia Swim get started?

A: I have been teaching water safety on and off for 50 years! I was teaching for the City of Fernandina Beach, sharing space with lap swimmers, recreational swimmers and camp kids. It was very difficult to focus. When I was taken off of the schedule, I decided to teach on my own.

Q: Where do you operate out of now?

A: We were fortunate initially to have the use of a private home pool. We have just moved to what we hope is our permanent location. It is private and quiet. We do go to homes and communities if time allows (mostly early and very late in the season as the schedule fills quickly during summer hours). An additional fee is charged for home teaching.

Q: Your Facebook page says you serve ages 6 months to 102 years. What’s tougher to teach — a baby or someone elderly?

Swim-Amelia-Swim 2A: In most ways, everyone is the same and needs patience and gentleness. Learning to swim is scary– you walk into a strange place with a strange teacher and are told to get in water that looks much too deep to be comfortable. Babies don’t talk, teens talk too much, older people are often embarrassed by their lack of skill. Some babies– and others– love the water and enjoy paddling underwater, others get upset just sitting on the side dangling their feet.

Q: Swim Amelia Swim prides itself in tailoring lessons to the individual. How do you do it?

A: Each student begins where they are. They are never shamed or tricked into learning but are treated without judgment and with patience. You cannot know how to do something until you learn– our job is to help you learn.

Although each instructor is Red Cross-trained and has had other training and experience, we do not follow any one program. We try to use the best of everything we know to provide a safe and fun learning experience.

Q: What is a typical lesson is like?

A: Intense. Fun. Rewarding. Challenging.

Q: What types of safety and survival skills do you teach?

A: It is not possible to “drown proof” anyone. We can teach safety in and around the water and we begin by investigating the pool area– are there steps or a railing? Where is the shallow water? Where can you stand? Are there obstacles on the deck–chairs, toys, equipment?

Basic rules include staying at least five feet from the water until an adult says they are ready to watch, holding on to railings with two hands, learning to stop when told to stop. We teach techniques such as avoiding unsafe areas, jumping toward a safe area, floating on your back, swimming with others supervising. Back floating is the best technique: you are on your back and can breathe, rest and holler for help! We even practice hollering—loudly! We also take time to educate any parents or other caregivers who come with the students. We share safety practices and the verbal and physical prompts we use for consistency.

Q: How many weeks or months do lessons last?

A: We do not sell pre-paid packages of lessons. Each person learns at their own speed. With children, often a boredom barrier sets in and we suggest taking a break and coming back later for more lessons. Caregivers are taught how to supervise and how to reinforce the lessons during this time. Sometimes you just have to play and be silly…

Before we begin, we talk about goals for the sessions. Often, we can make a guess after a lesson or two about how long it will take to teach– but it is a guess. We talk to caregivers and students after each lesson to review what they are working on, what comes next. The initial goal is always safety. Looking pretty while swimming can come later. When any student reaches a plateau , we suggest a break and will provide preferential scheduling when they return.

Q: What are Swim Amelia Swim’s rates for swim lessons at your Fernandina Beach location?

A: Thirty-minute lessons are $30. Our prices are deliberately set on the lower side for private lessons in this area. We want to attract as many people as possible. We are surrounded by water here — its critical to learn to be safe. When we go to a home or community, the fee is $50 to account for travel time. The extra fee also is used to provide scholarship lessons.

Q: How many swim instructors does Swim Amelia Swim have? Does each have a specialty, or do you all work interchangably?

A: I am the primary instructor and have two backups when the schedule gets too full. We try to assign one teacher to one student for consistency. I work best with babies, children under age 10 and anxious adults. Others are more skilled at distance and racing techniques.

Q: How did you end up on Amelia Island?

A: I was living and travelling on a 36′ trawler and stopped here for a while, and a while longer, and then came back… It’s been 15 years now.

Q: What’s the best way to contact you and find out more?

A: On Facebook at Swim Amelia Swim or call 904-557-8884. The Facebook page is just getting started, but we try to post weekly during the teaching season with articles about safety and techniques, referrals to videos, and local competitions.

Q: Do you offer any specials?

A: Not usually but we try to be flexible. Each student receives an individual, focused lesson. It is an intense yet fun half hour. We provide scholarships when we can, often have longer lessons if there is time, and include caregiver training without an additional charge.

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