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Monday, August 16, 2010

Drown Proofing

There's a thing about being the daughter of an ex-S.E.A.L.

You might, you just might learn a little bit about training to be a S.E.A.L. And I don't necessarily mean through stories.

Drown Proofing
There's this thing they do called water proofing or drown proofing. They have you do a number of horrendous things but most horrendous of all is when they actually attempt to drown you. And yes, some do drown although they don't LEAVE you like that. Among other things is learning to hold your breath for some ridiculous amount of time and swimming while hands and feet are bound.

I'm pretty sure they lose a few brain cells in the processes hence my own experiences with drown proofing (wink wink daddy! ya know I love you!).

We did a lot of swimming while I was growing up. I loved it, surprisingly my dad loved it still and everyone called him a fish. But I'm guessing they really meant S.E.A.L. Ahhh if they only knew. By "they" I mean the many random people we swam with at community pools. He impressed them with his multiple laps AROUND the pool not across. And I made it my mission to try and do the same thing. I did pretty awesome too. I don't think I ever made it around the pool unless it was a small pool but I did make it across and back. I'd say I had some pretty strong lungs.

But those strong lungs didn't come from those practice sessions. They came from drown proofing sessions that went a little something like this: Me, swimming along happily...whoosh!!!!! I'm underwater...WHAT THE?!? Me paddling insanely to then I am gently pulled to the surface. I gasp and cough and manage to catch my breath. A gentle push underwater when I wasn't expecting it like we do when we're playing with friends only he always pulled me up. That was my version of "drown proofing" along with clear instructions of what to do in a variety of circumstances.

I didn't love when he did this and I could have done without it. In fact I remember thinking sometimes, "do we have to do this every time?"... but it turns out to have in fact have saved my life...twice.

Not only did he teach me by strengthening my lungs in swimming and the unexpected trips under water but he taught me how to effectively respond to those unexpected events. "Theory" doesn't always teach you how to respond because in the moment of an unexpected event we tend to panic, freeze, our mind goes blank or we flail around trying to get out of the situation. You know classic "Fight or Flight." S.E.A.L.'s don't take the chance that "theory" is enough. In training they put you in those situations to test how you respond when theory is out the window and the worst case scenario actually happens. That's really when you learn.

Once I was at the beach with a summer program. I was in the ocean and the waves were hitting particularly hard. Surfers were out and about all over. I turned as a wave was coming in and what I suspect was probably a novice surfer was riding in on a wave and headed straight for me and a speed that I couldn't out swim no matter which direction I went. I was out fairly deep in the water and was smashed in the head with the surf board, spun under water but thank God not unconscious. It was one of those moments when everything seems like it's going in slow motion. I was in pain, had sucked in a good amount of water and didn't know which way was up. This was the moment when I put the pieces together. I didn't panic (lesson 1). I didn't try to swim to what I suspected might be the surface as I was disoriented (lesson 2). Instead I straightened my body into a stick straight position and allowed the natural event of my body rising speedily to the surface occur (lesson 3). I hit the surface coughed out the water and swam to the shore. The lifeguard hadn't seen a thing. No one had.

Several years later I was swimming at a friends house. They had a huge raft in their pool and the big brother had swam under this raft with people in it and lifted it up. Later that day when just my friend and I were left in the pool I thought it would be fun to try it. My friend went inside the house for who knows what and why I decided to do it then is beyond me. I swam under the huge raft and was surprised that it seemed larger than I expected. Then I tried lifting it up. It didn't budge and the air I was counting on upon lifting it wasn't there either. It was then that I needed the air though. My heart started pounding at what was now happening but I didn't panic. I had no choice but to swim down and out from under the raft. I struggled to swim down because I was desperate for air and I hadn't even made it out from under the raft when I was already involuntarily "breathing" the water. I continued to swim out from under the raft and get myself to surface and out of the water. Still no friend and no parent either.

I was lucky. And taught well. Who knows how I would have responded to those situations had I not done that drown proofing. Maybe it would have been the same. But I doubt it.

That's the thing about being a Navy S.E.A.L.'s daughter. It might save your life.


Keri said...

wow- drowning scares me to pieces! so glad that you had some training in this department and you are alive today!

Alicia said...

Sometimes I wonder if you are a weird figment of my imagination. I have almost EXACTLY the same nearly drowning stories!Only my Dad was NOT a S.E.A.L and I was never drown proofed. I made it though so all is well.
I have 3 nearly drowning stories.
1- I was very young and in a family pool, my aunt put me in a tube to float around in, but no one was around when I was ready to get out so I tried doing it myself. I was maybe 4.
2- One day when at the beach a rough body boarder, a boy to young to be without supervision, came at me. I wasn't hit in the head like you, but was pushed to the side where a rock bar had sea weed that caught my foot. Luckily I didn't hit the giant rock!
And Finally the boat. At a friends pond a large group was swimming one night, parents and all, and they had a very light boat that they were just flipping over and over in the water. One point it didn't flip quite as expected and knocked me in the head. I was trapped under it, disoriented, and there was no air under the boat to sustain me. To this day I'm not sure how I made it out of there though. But I did, and that's what matters! lol

Isn't is strange how we have similar stories though??

Ticia said...

Wow. Are you doing this with Zorro? There's parts of this that are cool. There's parts that are kinda weird.

Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice said...

LOL No Ticia I won't be doing that with Zorro

Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice said...

But I will tell him the appropriate response in the event of certain circumstances. ;)

Bobbi said...

Wow, those are some scary experiences you had, but thank goodness you had your SEAL training!

And thanks for the good tips!

J said...

Hi, It's me, wink wink. Nice write up. I always enjoy your blogs. You forgot to mention the incident that happened at Raging Waters. I am sorry to have put you through it but I would do it again! I would rather have you with me than to lose you to an accident! Lots of Love

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