We started kicking our legs as we followed the coach's instruction to swim ahead to the middle of the pool. The next thing I knew, the kickboard I was holding onto with my dear life slipped through my fingers, and there I was waving my arms and legs in all directions in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.
As the chlorine-scented water filled my nostrils, a brute force plucked me out of the 1.8m pool and onto the paver. When I opened my eyes, only anger and sadness filled my head as I saw my classmates breaking out into a hysterical laugh.
That was the day I told myself I was never hitting the pool again.
Fast forward 9 years, I held a Notice of Enlistment in a letter mailed to me by the Ministry of Defence, and I knew exactly what was coming. At this point of my life, I held pretty true to my vows of never touching the pool... Except that I knew I had to break it soon enough.
Enrolling into Speediswim was never a choice I made on my own - Having had lots of persuading from my mother. But it was never a choice I regretted. In just 2 months and 16 lessons, I witnessed my transition from a complete newbie, to an amateur who grew to love the sport.
It was a Thursday night after I knocked off work. I headed down to the private pool where Speediswim held their night classes for adults and my experience was rather interesting, to say the least. Classes began when I changed into my swimming trunks, goggles and headed down into the pool.
By pool, I meant the shallow one, and you can imagine how a 1.78 tall man might appear learning how to swim there. Moreover, a quick glance around my surroundings and you'll see kids and young teens swimming at near professional levels (at least in my eyes)!
Having said that, I was never embarrassed but only thankful for this arrangement, because I knew that everyone starts somewhere. Also let's not mention that I would have absolutely no idea how I would tackle the adult pool as a beginner.
And so, in my first lesson, I learnt and practiced on the one and only stroke I've known, the breast stroke.
Now, no genius has the ability to master any strokes in just an hour, and I was no different. After the first few lessons of practicing and getting used to the motion of the breast stroke, my fear was put to the test as I pushed myself to learn how to tread water.
Treading water is an incredibly important skill to learn as it allows you to stay afloat, regardless of the depth. I knew that once I learnt this, my fear of water would be tackled. However, I learnt the hard way that treading water was a skill which requires nobody else but you, to be able to find that 'sweet spot' to keep yourself afloat. I think not even the greatest of coaches can help you achieve that.
As weeks went on, I moved onto an even more intense series of training, with the coaches at Speediswim tailoring their lessons to my upcoming journey in National Service (NS). They prepared me for the worst with buttoned-up shirts and long trousers that I've got to swim in, to simulate my experience when I enter NS. To make things more challenging, I was also belted up with weights weighing up to 7kgs as I swam across the 2metre breadth, and boy... I can vividly remember it being a killer.
Now, some of you may believe that to be quite the craze, or even torture that I was put through, but I truly don't believe it to be the case. Instead, I'm extremely overjoyed to have been part of this training program that taught me many things, apart from my swimming journey. Perhaps the greatest takeaway of all: We are never too old to learn.
I strongly believe that the confidence I've gained in myself and my swimming abilities (though only average) was worth the 2 months of muscle aches, soreness, and occasional cramps.