By Shoshanna Rutemiller
PHOENIX, Arizona, June 20. WHAT were you doing at 11amEST on Tuesday, June 18? If you were one of more than 35,000 participants in the fourth annual World's Largest Swim Lesson, at that moment you dove into a pool to set a Guinness World Record. Free swim lessons for the annual international water safety initiative were held at over 700 locations on five continents.
“Places had even higher turnout than expected,” Beth Root, the WLSL event organizer, told Swimming World. “We are so fortunate to have such a great response from the facilities and the kids and the parents that participated in the event. It's been very upbeat and exciting.”
The event had more than a 40 percent increase in attendance from last year, thanks in part to its Olympic-level volunteers. Olympian Rowdy Gaines hosted swim lessons in Orlando, Fla., at the exact same time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Janet Evans was talking to kids about water safety across the continent in California. Olympians Brendan Hansen and Misty Hyman, along with numerous other US National team alumni also made appearances at local water parks and city pools to show their support for the initiative.
“This was the best year for me, personally,” said Gaines, who has participated in the annual event since it was launched in 2010. “[Everyone] loved every minute of it. It was really exciting.”
The event has grown considerably since its launch, which set the initial Guinness World Record for the world's largest swim lesson at about 3,700 participants from 73 different locations in 7 countries. The organization has topped that number every year since.
Check out some raw footage from the 2013 event below:
“We wanted to do something that gave kids the opportunity to become world record-holders,” said Root. “The idea of having the world record behind it is very appropriate for the sport of swimming. The kids really get behind the idea of breaking a world record. At the same time the event spreads the message of water safety.”
Big Surf in Tempe, Arizona set its own world record by hosting the largest swim lesson at a single venue. Olympic gold medalist and Arizona native Misty Hyman was there to sign autographs and encourage the more than 800 participants.
“We keep learning every years how to make it a bigger and bigger success, and it's grown like crazy,” said Root. “We continue to see a lot of growth on the international side. South America, Mexico and Brazil are very strong participants in the program. We had people from Abu-Dhabi to Anchorage, Alaska, that were jumping into the water at the exact same time to set this year's world record.”