Summer's here, and a new swim lesson program in Watsonville is hoping to help local kids get comfortable in the water.
Seahorse Swim School will start at Lifestyle Fitness, at 25 Penny Ln., Monday. That's when Tiffany Harmon, a longtime swim instructor in Santa Cruz County, will expand her program into South County.
Seahorse Swim School will offer all-ages lessons in English and Spanish at the fitness center and coach a noncompetitive swim team. At the end of the year, the school will add a masters swimming component.
"We really want to fit into the community and offer something," said Harmon, who already offers swim lessons Chaminade in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz High School, Toadal Fitness in Capitola and Seascape Sports Club taught by herself or one of her personally-trained instructors.
Seated in her corner office on the pool deck this week, Harmon was enthusiastic about offering swim lessons in a community where . She said she feels welcome at Lifestyle Fitness, formerly Spa Fitness, and is excited to spruce up the office with an underwater motif painted by her aunt, some window decals and a big sign on the door.
"It's going to be great, once the word gets out," Harmon said.
So far, student sign-ups have been slow, according to Harmon.
"I know that it will grow," she said. (The 10-foot sign goes up on Penny Lane and South Green Valley Road later this week.)
Harmon's been living and working in the county for a long time. She was a competitive swimmer in junior college and launched a private swim lesson program when she taught preschool in Santa Monica, but left it behind to play volleyball at UC Santa Cruz.
Seahorse Swim School was born from her duel passions for the water and teaching.
"I work really well with pretty much any child," Harmon said. "I've got them wrapped around my finger."
She also teaches private lessons to autistic kids and other children with developmental issues. Harmon also works with adult non-swimmers, to help them get comfortable with the water.
Two of her instructors in Watsonville are women in their 60s; the third is the granddaughter of one of them. All Seahorse Swim School instructors will have American Red Cross certifications to teach swimming, Harmon noted.
"I've acquired a great crew of people from everyone I've met," she said.
Although she jokes that she always wears her uniform, a her white bathing suit, Harmon also is an EMT and a radio DJ—she spins reggae for "The Joy in the Morning" Thursdays on KZSC.
"It's tiring," Harmon said of her commitments, "but the energy I get from the children feeds my soul."
Not all students take the the water like fish. Harmon said teaching new swimmers to be comfortable with side breathing—turning one's head to the left or right to take a breath while swimming—is one of the most difficult things.
"The other challenge, especially for the young ones, is getting them in the pool," Harmon said.
But she knows how to outlast children's stubbornness.
"It's just patience," said Harmon, explaining that there's no urgency to teach a kid to swim. "... They're only 6 or 5 or 4. They're not going to be Michael Phelps in a minute."
Harmon also is trying to obtain funding from the USA Swimming Foundation for scholarships in Watsonville. Lessons will be Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. For pricing and to register, check out the Seahorse Swim School website.