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Drownproofing

If you could learn a simple technique, and teach it to your children, that could help prevent drowning, would you want to learn it?

You can learn it in a swimming class. You don't even have to be a good swimmer to use this technique, you don't even have to be able to swim at all. You can practice it in chest deep water in a swimming pool.

Regular practice is good fun, but may come in handy in an emergency. It builds confidence and specific skills to sustain for long periods of time.

Drownproofing is also called water survival. It's an excellent way to stay afloat for long periods of time without a life preserver, even for a non-swimmer who is fully clothed.

In America several schools run a drownproofing program at local swimming pools as a part of their Outdoor Education Program. Taken by fifth-grade students, it consists of class discussions and written work. The kids love it, especially when they go swimming in clothes.

In Mexico City, Eduardo Alcantara uses drownproofing as a basis for swimming instruction with adult learners. By learning to float first, his students have the confidence to make rapid progress and Eduardo claims a near 100% success rate.

History of Drownproofing

Fred Lanoue Drownproofing is a method for surviving in water disaster scenarios without sinking or drowning, developed by swimming coach Fred Lanoue. It was developed in 1940 for the Naval School which was located at Georgia Tech prior to and during World War II.

The Navy adopted it as part of their standard training. His method was so successful that it gained national recognition, and Georgia Tech soon made it a requirement for graduation. The course was dropped from the curriculum in 1987, as part of a downsizing of the physical education and athletics department.

Fred Lanoue was a colourful character, known to students as Crankshaft because of his limping gait. He was short, kind of bow-legged, but strong minded. He got the most out of his students. The foundation block of his drownproofing course was teaching students to float. Ironically, he was one of the few people who couldn't float. But he definitely knew how to teach others how to do so.

Drownproofing was a marvellous course and a great confidence builder. His course was well designed and students progressed from the simplest steps to the more complex. He taught students how to float in water for extended periods of time with ankles and wrists bound, how (unbound) to swim 50 meters underwater, retrieve diving rings from the bottom of the pool using their teeth, and other water survival skills. At the time it was considered a prime example of the difficulty of Tech's curriculum, and referred to in jest by students as "Drowning 101."

In June 1960, Reader's Digest ran an article, "Nobody Needs to Drown," about the drownproofing method developed by Fred Lanoue when he was a professor of physical education and swimming coach at Georgia Tech. Lanoue developed techniques that can prevent death in the water and help to free a potential drowning victim from "hysteria and energy-draining tension." The article said Coach Lanoue taught 20,000 people of all ages-swimmers and non-swimmers-how to stay afloat in an emergency.

Fred Lanoue published a book called Drownproofing, a New Technique for Water Safety in 1963, reprinted in 1978. It describes his life-saving program which can be effectively used to prevent drowning by everyone regardless of age, swimming experience, or physical condition.