Massive Tread-A-Thon Scheduled to Raise Drowning Awareness

Photo Courtesy: Nathan Tschohl

By Norah Hunt, Swimming World Intern.

As swimmers, being comfortable in the water comes naturally to us. We take for granted how effortlessly we can slide across the surface, how completely relaxed we feel blowing bubbles at the bottom of a pool or floating on our backs, staring up at a cloudless sky. To us, the water is a way to recharge; it is our safe haven against the business of the everyday world. It represents power and control and tranquility.

But it is not that way for everyone.

In the United States, every day about ten people die from drowning. Two of these are children 14 and under, and for every child that drowns there are five that must receive emergency medical care due to submersion related injuries. Internationally, drowning is an even larger epidemic. Drowning rates are significantly higher in low and middle income countries where a substantial part of the population cannot swim.

In Bangladesh, drowning accounts for 43 percent of all deaths in children from ages 1-4 years old, and in Africa the drowning rates are 10-13 times higher than those in the United Kingdom. In Cambodia, drowning is the leading cause of childhood mortality, and 2094 Cambodian children die from drowning each year. This statistic is not even an accurate measure of the true mortality rates, because children that drown in Cambodia are rarely taken to a hospital, and thus are not counted in that country’s death records.

Photo Courtesy:

Photo Courtesy:Nathan Tschohl

Shockingly, the swimming community is by and large unaware of these statistics. As people that pride ourselves on our ability to “eat, sleep, swim” we are incredibly ignorant to the thousands of deaths that occur each year in the water, a place that has always felt like home to us. Drowning is a problem that we are vaguely aware of, but we are not at all educated on how large of a problem it is.

iCAN SWIM trainees

Photo Courtesy: Nathan Tschohl

Nathan Tschohl and the International Water Safety Foundation are striving to unite the two groups. On September 27 at 5 p.m., over 65 swim teams and organizations will come together in a massive Tread-A-Thon to raise money for their programs as well as SWIM Cambodia, an initiative to teach swimming and basic water safety skills to the people of Cambodia. The main idea? Treading water for as long as possible to raise awareness. Most events will have a webcast, and the hope is to cause a splash in the swimming community and to raise awareness of the drowning fatalities that occur both in the United States and internationally.

Tschohl hopes that the event will serve as a wake up call for swim organizations across the country. “There is a big disparity between the swimming community and the drowning community,” Tschohl explains. “We need to wake up and bridge the gap between the two groups. I did all the normal things swimmers did: I was a lifeguard, I swam on club and college teams, I coached. The one thing I didn’t do was realize how many people were drowning.”

For more information on SWIM Cambodia and the Tread-A-Thon initiative:

*Warning: the following video contains graphic content*



  1. avatar

    I’m shocked that Ms. Hunt and Swimming World did not do due diligence in this matter. The statement that everyone finds it natural or calming to tread in water is just not true. As the CEO of WaterPhobias LLC, I spend my days teaching fearful swimmers/non-swimmers how to learn to overcome their fear of water. It is estimated that over forty per cent of adults suffer from varying degrees of fear surrounding water and would never even consider treading in water over their head, even with support from a flotation device. This number is doubled in certain parts of the world where pools are hard to find and among certain ethnic groups. I’m deeply troubled by this comment, but not surprised, since the major Aquatic Organizations throughout the world pay very little attention to this widely diverse population of fearful swimmers/non-swimmers. It is difficult enough to find aquatic programs that will allow programs like mine into their pools because they lack the proper information about this issue. Treading is an extremely valuable skill, that can save lives, but only if you have no fear or an extremely low Aquatic IQ. I plead with you to be more careful and accurate on issues that affect so many people. Thank you!!

    • avatar

      So you take a great article that tries to spread awareness of drowning, you nit pick the first sentence to spread awareness of your company? I’m sure you have a good cause, but that just looks shady on you and what you do…

      I think that you are one of few people that would argue against swimmers being comfortable in water. If you’re not, you’re probably wouldn’t call yourself a swimmer. Just mine opinion just like you shared yours on the article.

Author: Norah Hunt

Norah Hunt is a sophomore swimmer at the College of William and Mary, and was a member of the 2017 CAA championship team. She grew up swimming for the Shenandoah Marlins Aquatic Club (SMAC), and competed at the 2015 Open Water Nationals.

Current Swimming World Issue

Trouble Viewing on Smart Phones, Tablets or iPads? Click Here