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YMCA classes bring new approach to open water swimming
The YMCA of Coastal Georgia is holding swim classes this summer with a new approach to open water swimming. Photo provided

As Memorial Day brings with it the unofficial start of summer and its focus on outdoor activities, the YMCA of the Coastal Empire announces a fresh new approach to its traditional swim and water safety classes, with a new emphasis on open-water swimming at beaches and in lakes.

Coastal Georgia is blessed with multiple locations for swimming beyond private and municipal swimming pools. Swimming safely in a natural environment, such as along a beach, brings with it additional challenges beyond the scope of a swimming pool.

In an initiative pioneered in water safety classes at the McIntosh YMCA, classes will now take into account the information and techniques required for open-water swimmers.

“We have decided to take the additional step of customizing our swimming and water safety courses to better reflect the waters in which many of our students will be swimming,” said COO Krystal McGee. “Rip currents, tidal fluctuations, sudden and unexpected drop-offs in depth — all of these factors and more change the skill set needed for water safety. The coastal open-water swim safety emphasis came from Cindy Irwin, membership director-Darien/ McIntosh Chamber of Commerce and Mcintosh County YMCA board member.”

Classes are available for those ages 6 months and older, taught in a series of six sessions over a two-week period at a cost ranging from $50 to $70. Classes are available at the YMCA branches at Islands, Habersham, West Chatham, Effingham, Liberty, and Golden Isles. The Coastal Safety around water course is also available at all summer camps, including Tybee Island, Richmond Hill, McIntosh and Statesboro. Classes start the first week in June.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental drowning claims an average of 4,000 lives each year. Additionally, an annual average of 8,000 non-fatal drownings exacts an added toll, since these incidents can cause brain damage and other lifelong disabilities.

In 2022, the Y taught 1,827 people Safety Around Water and Youth Swim Lessons. Every camper in Summer Day Camp received the Safety Around Water training. 

The CDC reports that more children ages 1-4 die by drowning in this country than from any other cause of death, and in children ages 5-14, drowning is the second leading cause of death, behind motor vehicle accidents. Approximately 10 people drown in the U.S. every day.

The National Weather Service reports that rip currents — the powerful and often unseen flows that can pull swimmers out to sea — are the underlying cause of most beach-centered drowning fatalities.

Swimming instruction is underwritten by the YMCA’s community impact campaign. Water safety courses are a regular feature of the summer day camp program operated by the YMCA each year. To understand the scope of that project, consider that the YMCA of Coastal Georgia fed almost half a million meals during its summer camps in 2022.

About the YMCA of Coastal Georgia

The YMCA of Coastal Georgia is the largest provider of childcare in the Coastal Georgia region, operating 11 units in Bulloch, Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Glynn counties. The YMCA serves men and women, girls and boys of all ages and from all walks of life regardless of the ability to pay. For more, visit https://

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