Locals swim past water woes

Adults overcome fears in Adult Learn to Swim Class
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Amiee Castro decided it was time to dive straight into her fear. Watching Castro of Loomis glide across the pool, many people would never know she is learning how to swim for the first time at 43, despite her phobia of being underwater. She isn’t alone in her endeavor. Castro is enrolled in the Adult Learn to Swim class at Sea Otter Swim Lessons in Loomis. Instructor Ken Dugan helps students like Castro work through their fears to become proficient swimmers. “Most of them didn’t learn as a kid or had a traumatic experience as kid,” Dugan said. “They build this foundation of fears with emotional and physical barriers.” Dugan said while there is no magic formula in working through those, he has been able to identify certain keys. First he gets his students comfortable breathing in the water, as close to a normal breathing pattern as possible. Next he goes for the biggest challenge — getting them to put their head underwater. “Once they can do that it opens the door to everything else,” Dugan said. “These are triumphant moments for these people. To see them conquer that fear is the best part.” Castro said her family is part of what motivated her to learn how to swim. “My kids really love to swim and my husband loves to swim,” Castro said. “I felt less and less comfortable that I could protect them if something happened.” Watching episodes of the reality TV show, “Survivor” was the extra push she needed. “Watching ‘Survivor’ really inspired me,” Castro said. “I realized normal people can swim long distances, not just athletes.” Now, Castro is certain she will be able to enjoy the summer in the water with her family and has taught her children a valuable lesson. “It’s so liberating. I’ve gone to the indoor pool with my kids,” Castro said. “I think it’s good for them to see I have fears, but you don’t have to give into them.” Castro’s classmate Jake Vernon, 27, of Colfax has learned that all too well. Working through his extreme anxiety at being in the water has been a process. “I had a couple of accidents as a kid. I was scared to death actually,” Vernon said. “I have really worked to get where I am at.” Dugan said one of Vernon’s traumatic incidents involved being trapped underwater. When it came time for him to conquer his fear, it was the support of others that got him through. Vernon said he gives all the credit to his wife Lindsay for signing him up for the class and Dugan for his coaching. “The first time I swam all the way across I panicked in the middle. It was like (Ken) was listening in my head. He felt it and grabbed my elbow,” Dugan said. “He really gained my confidence. He should be a psychologist instead of a swim coach.” Both Castro and Vernon decided to enroll in an extra session to continue working on their skills in the water. They have moved on from the basics to treading water and different strokes. Dugan said that while he still has some apprehension, the hardest part is now behind him. He believes the same principles apply to overcoming any fear in life. “For a lot of people, seeing is believing. You can’t see you have the capability to do something if you are blinded by fear,” Vernon said. “If you face your fear, you will find you have a military tank to run the roadblock over.” Reach Sara Seyydin at