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About Yvonne Fisher

Yvonne Fisher, who has lived in the Algarve for 13 years, gives swimming classes to children of all ages – and the one major aspect of her classes is to encourage her pupils to know how to turn around and grab the edge of the pool – a simple manoeuvre that could so easily save their lives.

Yvonne’s history of swimming is a fascinating one.

“Up until I was 40 years old, I couldn’t swim – but not for want of trying.  Unfortunately, my parents had neither the time nor the inclination to teach us to swim, so I pretended I could. That resulted in a near drowning for me at the age of 11, but left me determined to keep trying. I went on to have a family of my own, making sure both of my children could swim; in fact, my son joined the local diving club, and I just watched!

Finally, at the age of 40, I resolved to change my life completely, and learning to swim was top of the list. I started with the local council, but the instructor put armbands on me, leaving me humiliated and ashamed.”

 It was soon afterwards that Yvonne found Sid Shephard, who ran a company called Dolphin Swim School.  Not only did they teach her to swim, they also persuaded her to train as a swimming teacher. 

“I gave up my full time sales job and worked for Sid and Jean Shephard for six years before coming to Portugal. Initially I specialised in teaching adults to swim, simply because I could understand what they were going through, and still do, but I was drawn more and more into baby training, untilI developed my own methods which work so well, particularly here in Portugal where we are surrounded by pools! And I don’t use armbands!” she says.

Safety first Yvonne’s paramount concern in all her classes is safety.

She knows of several children who have fallen into water, but have managed to get themselves out, or at least hold on until help arrived.

“Eva, one of my young pupils, who has been attending my classes since she was a tiny baby, fell into a pool recently, and got herself out! Apart from the obvious delight these little ones give me and their parents, I hope I’ve helped a bit. If I have saved one little child from drowning, it would have been worth it!” says Yvonne.

I recently visited one of her classes, at the Lagos Marina Hotel, where her youngest attendee was just 11 weeks old. The classes are small, each child being in the arms of one of their parents and Yvonne aims to make the classes fun and interesting – for both parent and child. The toddlers are encouraged to “turn, turn, swim to mummy”, where it is amazing to see babies doing exactly that!

“They love going under the water”, says Yvonne.

“All babies look upwards for bright colours and light so they know which way is up”. But don’t they swallow or inhale any of the water? I ask.

“Not at all. In layman’s terms, it’s a completely reflexive muscular action of the throat which closes the airway, preventing water entering the lungs or stomach.  Much like the valve on a car tyre,” answers Yvonne.

Classes last half an hour and include singsongs as well as ‘teaching’ the toddlers to fall into the water and to turn around independently. The majority of the babies Yvonne works with learn to swim by the time they are two-and-a-half to three years old. Mandy and Dave Ware have been taking their nine month old daughter, Olivia, to swimming classes with Yvonne since she was just three months old and they are both amazed at the results. “She has even swum under water for nine seconds”, says Mandy. “It’s incredible!”

*Note from Yvonne:- this copy was written many years ago.


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