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Ocean swimming is not just about fun and exercise - it is also about staying safe. All kids should learn to swim - even if they are not near or in the water very often. To ease your mind and help them build their skills and confidence, enroll your kids in swimming lessons. The younger they learn the better: confident swimmers are safer swimmers. Of course, you will still need to keep a sharp eye on them, but both you and your children will be more at ease as they play in the water.
I agree, children should be taught how to swim young. It's a useful skill anyone should know, espeacially those who don't live near water, because you probably don't really know all too much about the water, and how unpredictable it is, nothing you read will really tell you, you have to expirience it, and if there's one thing that proves it, it's swimming. By all means, put your kids in swimming lessons, but remember one thing. They will be learning in a swimming pool, which has no really tangible current. The ocean, on the other hand, has waves, strong ones, and no child is strong enough to go out there after just pool lessons and take on undertow, I've been swimming in the ocean for years, every summer, and I still have close ones. Also, remember the tides, pools stay calm all the time, until someone splashes, but beaches, have a high tide and a low tide. If you don't go to the beach often, make sure to check the marine forecast for the tide times, make sure to not be too far out when high tide hits, no one can really predict the waves then. The forecasts are ussually pretty acurate and even if they're not, bank high, better safe than sorry. Undertow ruins beach days, salt water burns when you have a gallon or two in your lungs.