Still Swimming in Requirements
Anthony J. Mako (ajmako@APK.NET)
Thu, 5 Feb 1998 20:37:56 -0500
<QUOTE From=John Peschken jpeschken@TSI.COM >
The BSA's focus on swimming has been a mystery to me most of my life. It's
an important survival skill, but these days the boats all have flotation,
and you're wearing a PFD at all times, at least in Minnesota. All you need
to do is get back to the boat.
We must remember that swimming is just one of the requirements for Second
Class and First Class. I have had Scouts who could swim like fish, but
couldn't grasp Scoutcraft skills like cooking or knots. Each Scout faces
roughly the same challenges with each rank. There are some requirements he
dreads doing, and some he wants to do several times over. My personal
challenge when I was a Scout was swimming as well, but there were no
requirements for the ranks at that time so I was never forced to face that
As far as "All you need to do..." let me tell you a story. Shortly after I
turned 18 my troop planned a trip to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania to
go whitewater rafting down the Yougheheny (SP?) River. Several of my friends
had gone on a similar trip a couple years before but I couldn't because I
couldn't satisfy the swimming requirement. That was when I was fifteen.
Three years later I had managed to force myself to get better at swimming,
but still could only pass the beginners test. That was all I needed to do to
be able to go on the Pennsylvania trip.
Since I was 18, I was considered an adult (I found out later that adults
could simply "certify" that they could swim) and was treated as such by the
other adults. Strangely enough, I had always been good at canoeing and
rowing, but my lack of swimming ability had kept me from participating in
those activities as a Scout. My raft made it down half of the river with no
incidents. We had all laughed several times as the other three rafts in our
party flipped over a boulder here, or submerged momentarily under a rapid
there. In fact, as we stopped just before the mid-point rapid to get
instructions from our guide, several of my friends had hatched a plan to
douse me since I hadn't gotten very wet all day.
Now, I don't remember the name of the rapid, but it was a very fast rapid
that moved between two boulders that stuck up out of the river about six or
seven feet. To negotiate the rapid we were supposed to avoid the first
boulder but steer as close to it as possible before paddling like mad to
avoid hitting the second boulder. We were told several times that you had to
lean into a boulder if you were about to hit it. This kept the weight in the
raft forward and allowed it to bounce off. If you didn't lean into it, the
weight would be in the back and allow the raft to flip.
Well, we started down the rapid and the next thing we knew we were headed
straight for the first boulder. Out of the six of us in the raft, only two
of us actually leaned into the boulder so the front of the raft flipped
right up onto the boulder sending the helmsman (that was me) and four others
over the side. The only member of the crew who stayed with the raft was
hanging on for dear life. I for one never made it back to the raft. I was
through the rapid and trying despirately to reach the bank of the river
before the raft even got off the boulder. I now know that it isn't very easy
to swim with a PFD, and that I was lucky I had forced myself to reach the
ability level I had. Otherwise I never would have made it to the bank on my
Some years later, I learned another lesson about swimming when I had to pass
the US Navy swim test. That's when I learned how much Scouting had actually
taught me about facing challenges. On that day I just said a little prayer
and jumped. I passed the test on the first try.
Anthony J. Mako, email@example.com
Scoutmaster, Troop 381
"Home of the Unofficial Boy Scout Desktop Theme!"
Great Trail Council - Akron, Ohio
"I used to be an Eagle (C-7-97), but I'll always be an Eagle (1981)"
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City