New Podcast Episode: Keeping Your Family Safe in and Around Water

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water safety

The emotional and physical health benefits for kids living near and spending time around water are well established, and we’re so lucky to live in an area surrounded by water. But, with great fun comes great responsibility: safety and respect for our watery playgrounds are warm-weather essentials.

In this episode, John Holland and Susie Van Ekeren join Amanda and Karlene to explore the benefits of water recreation, from cardiovascular health to fostering an appreciation for nature, and discuss how to balance it all with staying safe.

Who is at the greatest risk of drowning, and where? What can we do to minimize risks and maximize fun? Where can Oshkosh families find resources to increase confidence and safety around water? We’ll cover all of this and more in this must-listen episode—Let’s Talk About Water Safety!

About our Guests

John Holland, Oshkosh Fire Department, Public Education
John Holland, also known as Firefighter John to thousands of students in Oshkosh, is a lifelong resident of Oshkosh, a dad, and public education advocate for the Oshkosh Fire Department.

Susie Van Ekeren, Wisconsin Swim Academy, owner & founder
Susie Van Ekeren, Wisconsin Swim Academy owner, is a lifelong swim enthusiast and teacher and, most importantly, proud mom to a family of 4 sons AND over 1,000 WSA kiddos and staff. Wisconsin Swim Academy was established in 2007 in Susie’s backyard. And much like today, it began with small class sizes for 30-minute lessons and fresh-baked bread and sweets for post-lesson treats! Susie’s passion for teaching and kiddos exploded with each new lesson, and 20 years later, Wisconsin Swim Academy is now home to 60+ instructors and a splashy 6,000-square-foot aquatic center with a swim safety curriculum designed to keep our communities swimming!


Next Episode

In our next episode, we’ll be talking about family adventure!

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Amanda Chavez  00:00

Hello and welcome to Let’s Talk, the show that connects families in Oshkosh with local experts to talk about your parenting questions. I’m Amanda Chavez here with my co-host, Karlene Grabner. And today, we’re joined by John Holland from the Oshkosh Fire Department and Susie Van Ekeren and owner of Wisconsin Swim Academy, to talk about keeping our family safe while enjoying the water this summer. We’re so lucky to be surrounded by bodies of water. Studies have shown the benefits to kids’ emotional and physical health are in numerable innumerable, but with great potential for fun and wellness comes great responsibility to ensure safety. Who is at greatest risk of drowning, and where? What can we do to minimize risks and maximize fun? What resources are available to Oshkosh families to help in this endeavor? Today we’re talking about all things water, fun, and safety with John and Susie.

Karlene Grabner  00:47

Let’s Talk is brought to you through Go Oshkosh Kids’ partnership with the Women’s Fund of Oshkosh. The Women’s Fund of Oshkosh works to improve the lives of women, girls, and families of the communities in Winnebago County through philanthropy, grant-making, and education.

Karlene Grabner  01:05

Welcome, Susie, would you like to introduce yourself?

Susie Van Ekeren  01:09

Sure. Yes, thanks for having me. My name is Susie Van Ekeren. And I am the owner of Wisconsin Swim Academy in Appleton. I have been married for 30 years to my husband, Jeff, and we have four boys that we’ve raised, they’re all kind of older now. Been working in the swim industry and with swim schools and teaching for 20-plus years. And I’ve owned my own swim school since 2010. I have a pool in my backyard and absolutely passionate about safety in and around the pool.

Karlene Grabner  01:40

So you have lots of knowledge when it comes to swimming and water safety. And we have John with us, who is also an expert in the world. And we brought John into the conversation to focus and think through the safety that we have with rivers and lakes that we are so blessed to be surrounded by. So John, could you take a second to introduce yourself?

John Holland  01:58

You bet. I’m John Holland. I’m the Public Information Officer for the Oshkosh Fire Department. For a lot of the kids out there and parents: I am Firefighter John. I’ve been on the fire department for—this is my 24th year. And I have been an Oshkosh resident my entire life. I remember growing up, it was going to be: I’m not sure what I’m going to do—but it’s not going to be here. And now I am in the exact right spot. So I’m a lucky guy. I have one son. And I look forward to talking about this, and thank you for having me.

Karlene Grabner  02:30

Yeah, I do know you’re pretty famous, especially with the kiddos, because my son will come home and be like, Oh, Firefighter John visited us today! So it is very exciting when you’re when you’re able to stop by the schools.

John Holland  02:43

I’m a very lucky guy. I have a great job.

Karlene Grabner  02:46

Yeah, that’s good.

Amanda Chavez  02:47

And you made safety fun. I mean,

John Holland  02:49

We try to trick them into paying attention, you know?

Karlene Grabner  02:52

Yeah! Well, you do. Great.

Amanda Chavez  02:56

So today, we’re talking about water safety. And we’re so I mean, the Lake Winnebago right here, right? Like in boating, and the weather’s warming up, and we’re excited to be out there on the water. Today’s a beautiful day when we’re recording this. Susie, why don’t we start with you and your experience? What benefits do you see for kids who are able to play and explore water?

Susie Van Ekeren 03:15

Well, there are so many benefits to it. First of all, just the benefit of learning to be safe, I mean, definitely being safe and in and around the water and feeling comfortable around the water with the flow of the buoyancy, the breath control, all of that kind of stuff. I would say that there are also outside benefits to having swim lessons at an early age too, which I could go into there’s a big list of them. But there have been studies, which I can talk about later, too. It was a University of Griffiths study. And it showed that kids that were in swimming lessons early actually, were 15 to 20 months ahead and things like cognitive and motor skills and relational skills and things like that. So lots and lots of benefits for being, you know, in the water and playing around and swimming and all that kind of stuff, so.

Karlene Grabner  04:05

I guess if you think about it, right learning to swim, you’re having to listen, respond and move an arm move a leg, you know, so you’re doing so many different activities at the same time. 

Amanda Chavez  04:15

You have a swimmer, right like in that, that skill that you could do your whole life, right? 

Susie Van Ekeren 04:20

The other thing about that swimming does for you, especially when you learn how to do it at a younger age, is that for you know, a lot of kids, you know, if they’re doing football, baseball, basketball, anything else, you know that breath control is so important. And it actually sort of it escalates them in other sports because then they have that birth control down so it makes them, you know, actually be out there, you know, builds your endurance and all that kind of stuff they can, they can do it longer for, you know, for periods, longer periods of time and are generally in better shape. They actually every single sport uses swimming as a way to condition.

Karlene Grabner  04:50

That’s a huge fact that I bet you a lot of people don’t know, I didn’t think about the breath control. That’s fascinating.

Amanda Chavez  05:00

So at your swim school, you teach a lot, you start right out pretty young, right? Like six months?

Susie Van Ekeren  05:03

We started six months old, you can start earlier than that. But we started six months.

Amanda Chavez  05:08

So what are some things that you work on with those little ones to be comfortable around the water?

Susie Van Ekeren 05:14

So those classes are definitely about getting kids comfortable in the water. But and you know, but there are lots of things that you can teach kids at that age like you can teach a baby at that age to roll over to its back pretty young. You can teach them breath control there, they’ve been in the womb for nine months. So they already have had fluid in their lungs. So any child actually, under the age of six months, they’re holding their breath is automatic. Over six months, it is learned but it’s learned very quickly. And when they you know, you can there are certain signs that you can tell when they have been holding their breath. But it really all is about flow, buoyancy, breath control, and safety. But the biggest benefit of having those parent-child classes are about educating the parents, that really is a huge benefactor of you know, educating them on safety in and around water to making sure that they, you know, are doing things like when they’re around the water, they’re, you know, there’s no, there’s no phones, there’s no distractions, there’s no nothing, you don’t take your eyes off those children ever. Never let them go in alone, making sure that they’re always safe, you know, that kind of thing. So just, you know, just really educating them, you know, you know how to get in and out of the water safely, crab crawling if they get into a situation, anything like that.

Amanda Chavez  06:23

I think as a parent, sometimes it’s easy to be like, Oh, my kids were in swimming lessons, I don’t have to pay attention as much. So you’re saying right like that, it’s never safe enough.

Susie Van Ekeren  06:35

It is never safe. You should never, you know, never be in the water by yourself ever. Never. You should never, you know, even if your kids are 10 or 12 years old. I mean, you know, the number one cause, you know, of kids under the age of four is drowning, the number two cause of kids under the age of 12 is drowning. So even if they’ve been through swimming lessons, and typically they’re out by the age of 12, anything can happen. You know, anything can happen there. There are so many more benefactors that are there that could you know, trigger something like that.

John Holland 07:00

Going along with that, when I’m doing my summer safety programs in the schools, we talk about life jackets and such and without fail, there will be some kid that says, “I don’t need one. I’m a really good swimmer.” And if they call, that’s fantastic. Can you swim for two hours? Like for a life jacket that’s gonna hold you up, and you’re going to be panicking without it and whatever, with or without it. But I just thought when you brought that up, I thought, yes, that is, and parents do think that as well. My kid’s a good swimmer, I don’t have to watch them. And that is, that’s the big one. That’s what you said, make sure you never swim alone. And we always talk about that with kids. But that’s with adults as well. If something does go wrong, something that no one thinks they’re going to get stuck underwater hit their head, or whatever. But if you are alone, you’re going to disappear until it’s too late, and no one’s going to know you’re in trouble. So obviously, the big one, again, is you never ever swim alone. We always tell parents that when you have a youngster and their toddler, they should be within arm’s reach. So you can just reach out and I just reached out if you want to see that. So right here. It’s good, good podcast stuff to watch my arm.

Karlene Grabner  08:14

John just moved his arm all the way out.

John Holland 08:21

And going along with the boating and stuff as well, in this area. And we’re back again to the lifejacket and there are so many different things out there that people think will help them pool new pool noodles, excuse me, the floaties and they really do nothing, and they give parents this false sense of security really, but it does nothing. They have the little I can’t remember what they are called… the puddle jumper. Puddle jumpers are much better. There. They do have arm things like the floaties, plus they have a thing across the chest that goes all the way around the body. So it keeps that head above the water. So on a boat, you still should have a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Again, another thing we tell kids is you don’t just pack it, you wear your life jacket. And it has to be kid-size. That’s huge. It has to fit, and it has to fit tight. So if you do fall in, you are protected. And most of the people that we rescued from the water didn’t intend to be in the water at all that day, they were just going to be out on a boat so…

Karlene Grabner  09:30

….and they like accidentally fell over, or they or something?

John Holland 09:36

Something happens, and they hit something, a fallout, or just playing around, and they slip in exactly.

Susie Van Ekeren 09:41

60% of the drownings happen when they’re not ready to swim, they don’t have the goggles on, they don’t have their suits on, you know, they’re not intending to be in the water. So I mean, it truly is one of those things where you just have to be, you know, and what along with the boat situation to you need to know, you know, I think parents need to know what, how to dress their kids, you know if they’re in a boat, and it’s chilly outside, and they’re wearing a hoodie sweatshirt, or a pair of jeans, you know, they’ve just strapped on, you know, and that when they’ll you know, they fall in and they get wet. They’ve just strapped on five to seven more pounds onto that, you know, onto that child, and anything with a hood or like a rain jacket with a hood, that hood actually fills up with water and holds, you know, it’s in his heavy. So it is really tough too, you know, all of that kind of stuff you don’t really want to think about like, you know how to dress our children when we’re out there. 

Karlene Grabner  10:25

Crazy. I wasn’t prepared to say the story. But now that you just said that I am good. This is, this is water safety in the winter. But I actually fell through the ice when I was 13. And we lived on a channel, and my parents always like we’re on top of us of the things that you’re like stop saying stuff to me. But it was like if you ever fall through the ice, you need to look up and look for the black hole. You know, and I’m just like, you know, well anyway, I fall through the ice, and I had on that’s the reason I thought about I had on my ice skates I had on a snowsuit I had on you know, sweatshirt, baba baba. And so you It is unbelievable how heavy you instantly are. I mean, and I thankfully knew how to swim so I could tread water. But I also fell in with my 120-pound golden retriever, who, you know, was constantly now I’m acting out, John.

John Holland  11:16

You’re a very cute retriever.

Karlene Grabner  11:20

Okay, but constantly pushing me under the water. And as I got pushed under the water, I mean, you look up, and it’s like you see in the movies, you have like this much space between the water and the ice. But it’s weird that all you see is light. And so you think that that’s the top, but it’s not, it’s this little black spot that you have to look for. And anyway, when you said heavy, heavy clothing and things like that, I have no idea how I survived because I was in for quite a while. But it is true how quickly that becomes so heavy to hold yourself up.

Susie Van Ekeren  11:50

So if you’re putting your kids in a swim program, you do want to make sure that they are, you know, one of the things that we do want to, you know, a level that they have to pass once they get to a certain age, we actually have a two to three-pound weight. And we make them tread water with that weight, they have to jump into the water first without their goggles on. And then they have to come up, and they have to tread water for 60 seconds with a three-pound weight. And we do that so that they understand that number one, if you fall in without ’em, you gotta be able to come up to the top. And number two, you have to understand what it’s going to feel like when you have your clothes on.

Karlene Grabner  12:22

That’s a great idea. That is a great idea. Yeah, that you’re going to add that to your water safety class. 

John Holland  12:28


Karlene Grabner  12:29

So talk to us about Lake Winnebago and the river system and all those I mean, that’s a huge question. But, like, is there something that like tidbits that we can offer to our community of parents when they think through being on Lake Winnebago or on the river system?

John Holland  12:43

And like you said before, we are so lucky to have so much water around us. And however, going along with the fun is it can be dangerous. And so when you are out on the lake, out in the rivers, whatever you need to again, go back to, I hate to keep harping on this. But make sure you are watching someone that is non-distracted. Someone that has not been drinking. Someone is not on the phone, a lot of our water rescues are because of drinking. And in fact, a lot of our rescues period are unfortunate, and so the parents need to know the waterways need to know where they’re going, and where are their pilings into so you don’t hit them. The riverways have marked very well where you should be. You need to make sure that you stay in those and follow all the rules back to the lifejacket again and again and again. It is just one of those things, like I said, what a great place we live with so much water and so much fun. But along with that comes the danger and the safety, and it goes back to the parents. And like we were talking about earlier, drowning number one cause of accidental death for children five and under. But every single year, there are lots and lots of drownings. There are over 1,000 drownings every year in the United States. Over 2,000 kids, these are all kids that we’re talking about. Over 2,000 kids end up in the hospital due to close drowning, and under 3,000 go to the ER and get treated and released. So you need to know where you are, and what the safety rules are. One thing that I forgot to mention is your kids need to have a lifejacket on the law if they are under the age of 13, that lifejacket has to be on if they’re in an open boat if they’re on a paddle wheel or something, that’s a completely different ballgame. But if they are on an open boat, that lifejacket needs to be on, and the Sheriff’s Department is out there, making sure that everyone is being safe.

Karlene Grabner  14:56

Well, and this is a sad subject or a scary subject, but just out of curiosity, what your thoughts are or what do you know about this, I do have a friend who drowned, and there were three witnesses, adult witnesses, on the boat when it happened. And we’ve talked a ton about that since that occurred. And it’s interesting, I don’t know that this is the way it happens all the time. But what you, again, maybe see in the movies or you think it’s going to happen did not happen. You know, he jumped in, he came up, you saw his face, he went down, never saw to be seen again. You know, and I think a lot of people think they’re going to see that moment of flailing and that, you know, trying to catch your breath and up and down and kind of scenario. And I think the most I’ve read about it, that doesn’t happen, typically, 

John Holland  15:39

It doesn’t, and actually, Sue had a really good point on this.

Susie Van Ekeren  15:42

It’s very, it is a very silent death, unfortunately, a very sad, very devastating death. And it’s not it’s not like it is in the movies at all. Once those once that water gets into their lungs, you know, they can’t call out. So it is incredibly important. You know, when you’re watching, you know, when you’re especially if you you know, you should always designate a Water Watcher, there should be one person that everybody knows that at that moment, that’s the Water Watcher and that water, watch your needs to be undistracted the entire time. I mean, no phone, no nothing anywhere near them. It takes less than two minutes. And that child will be or adult or whatever is gone. You know, they’re already under the water. When you’re at the lake, you know, we talked about the lake, how wonderful our water systems are in the lakes. Make sure that you’re putting your children in really bright swimsuits. You know, the light blues, the whites, the light, pale yellows, things like that they blend in with the bottom of the pool. And if they’re really dark, dark swimsuits, they’re going to blend in in the lake or river, so make sure they’re wearing something very bright so that they’re easier to see. And you know to go to talk about the life jackets again, not every life jacket is Coast Guard approved, so make sure you’re really looking in it should be stamped in the lifejacket, and the Puddle Jumpers are just kind of new at being some Coast Guard approved.

John Holland  17:00

Some actually are, yes. 

Susie Van Ekeren  17:02

Some actually are, but many are not. So make sure you’re really checking to make sure that they have been Coast Guard approved.

Karlene Grabner  17:08

They go under?

Susie Van Ekeren  17:09

They do not. They just go around your chest. They just go around the chest has the band on the arm. So kind of go on the arm, and then it goes around their chest. 

Karlene Grabner  17:18

Yeah, the theory would be if you’re something would happen, you get on your back?

Susie Van Ekeren  17:22

Okay, yeah, so it is a very, you know, it’s just a very scary situation for everyone. No, those you know, so we really, be very aware.

Karlene Grabner  17:30

Yeah, that’s a good tip to have somebody designated to be paying attention. 

Amanda Chavez  17:34

What other tips do we have? For like, I think there was a kid, I don’t know, it was last year, the year before that had drowned in a retention pond. So like back to like that, that like you’re not planning on being in the water? What if, even as a parent, you’re scared of water, like how do you not be so scared of the water but still comfortable around it?

Susie Van Ekeren  17:57

So here’s, here’s my philosophy on parents, lots of parents, you know, lots of adults, don’t know how to swim. And then they have children and what happens it is a learned behavior when they don’t know how to swim. They will portray that to their children because of how panicky they will be when their children are in and around water. And many times, because of that, they’ll even wait to put those kids in swimming lessons. The fact that they get them in swimming lessons is absolutely a huge step and fantastic, but here’s my philosophy on it. The parents need to get in and actually know how to swim also, because let’s face it, if that child falls in the water by accident, are they going to stand there and watch them drown? No. You know, that I mean, as a parent, you’re automatically just going to jump in, and then you’re both going to drown. As a parent, you need to understand and feel safe in the water and confident water. Nobody is drown proof. Nobody is so even though even the even the best swimmers can be drown poof, but you absolutely want to at least try to equip yourself and educate yourself on it and, and learn how to swim. So that if your child, you know, did fall in, you could possibly, you know, going to get them. But obviously, there’s there’s certain things that you always want to make sure, you know, that you’re remembering is you know, when somebody falls in the water don’t go, you know, throw something to them, things like that, you know, get somebody right away to help. Once you and you’re in the water, and somebody is drowning, they become incredibly strong. So you really need to know how to approach that person. If you are a lifeguard and things like that you’re like, you know, they show you how to, you know, approach that person just so that you don’t get hurt. And they take you down also, like when you’re talking about the dog.

John Holland  19:34

Yeah, yep. Yeah. And I’m sure the dog made it harder and harder for you. Because as she was trying to get up, yeah, yep. And actually, people will fight you when you are trying to help them. And I’m going along with your retention pond. It’s, you can drown in water that you can walk in. We had someone drown, and it was in a little pond in this area. And what happened to say, tripped and fell on that when they were walking along the shoreline of this was like retention pond size, and hit their head and drown in water that was, you know, maybe a foot deep. 

Karlene Grabner  20:11

Because they went unconscious?

John Holland  20:15

Because they went unconscious and they were under the water. Something that I forgot to talk about. But the lakes in the rivers are in the Fox River. And I’m sure the lake as well used to be a dumping zone for everything back in the day where it was, how are we going to get rid of this and it was into the river and problem solved. There’s a lot of stuff to get stuck on down there. The bottom, even if you’re somewhere where you’re walking along, is very, very uneven. It drops off very quickly. So again, it goes back to watching the kids. And one quick thing about swim lessons said this it was talking about my mom was terrified of water. Absolutely. And I come from a family of six kids. And because of that, she didn’t take swimming lessons, but she made sure every single one of us did. We learned how to swim. So it’s just a great idea. That was her way of dealing with it. So um, and I appreciate that because it is a great exercise. Yeah.

Karlene Grabner  21:13

This is a an off the cuff question. But are there adult swim lessons where adults can parents could go together? And it’s like an activity that’s not intimidating. And it’s, you know, kind of positioned to be a fun activity? Or is that something some of us could look at starting? Because I do know, too, a couple of adults that will come on boats, but the whole time they’re on it. They’re they’re clenched. And I’m like, you guys, you take a lesson. But does that happen around here?

John Holland  21:37

Actually, I get it. I did, I got it at the Y, okay. And it was a one-on-one thing, and I knew I just wasn’t good at it, I could do it. And it was the breathing like you talked about and it, it just kept getting me. And so I did take a one-on-one lesson, it was very inexpensive, and I became a much better swimmer. And there was a little swallowing of the pride. But other than that, I was so happy that I did it. 

Susie Van Ekeren  22:05

So we actually offer adult swim lessons all the time, it’s better cranked I where I was at six o’clock this morning. At six, I have two adults that come in very early in the mornings, we offer them very early before work so that they can fit into their schedule. If they have kids with us, we’ll even give them a discount on their swimming lessons. I have had, you know, parents that come in, and the husband and the wife will do lessons together. For the most part, they want it to be very private. They don’t, you know, adults once they hit a certain age, you know, they’re they’re almost kind of embarrassed about it because generally speaking, if they haven’t had lessons, there’s a lot of fear involved. And so you know, you want to start out nice and slow, and you know, you want to make sure we earn their trust and so they don’t really want a lot of other people in the pool obviously. So we do offer them five days a week.

Karlene Grabner  22:46

That’s fantastic. 

John Holland


Amanda Chavez  22:55

Have you heard of dry drowning? I’ve heard people talking about that. 

Susie Van Ekeren  23:00

There is a lot of controversy around that term. But according to the National Drowning Association, there is actually no there’s no such thing as dry drowning. You either drowned, or you have not drowned. You know, there are cases that have happened where there has been an individual that maybe was in the pool, and they swam, and they swallowed a whole bunch of water, and then maybe a day or two later something tragic happened to them. But it is, it was medically deemed that it was not actually tied to the amount of water that was swallowed, that it was tied to a different condition, or something that had happened. So there have been lots of studies that have done on that have been done on that. They have said that you know, for a while there, it was a big thing. It kind of went off like wildfire, they kind of, you know, there was a physician that called it that at one point, and I think now they have retracted that and you know, so they’re really the term is not used at all in, especially in the world of swimming. It is it’s definitely you’re drowning, or you haven’t drowned. 

Amanda Chavez  24:05

What I like about the conversation today is right, like it is a scary thing. You’ve given us so many tips and things to prepare us or talk about with our kids that it doesn’t have to be so scary. 

Karlene Grabner  24:18


Susie Van Ekeren  24:19

There are so many benefits to learning how to swim, I mean, so many benefits. Getting, you know, kids into swimming lessons number one at an early age, it will reduce-nobody’s drown proof. I’ve think I’ve said that before, but it will reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. So it is really important that they do that. But there wasn’t there was a project that was entitled Earlier Year Swimming. It was a four-year project from the Griffith Institute of Educational Research, Laurie Lawrence Kids Alive Swim Program and Swim Australia. And they surveyed over 7,000 children, five years old and under, from Australia, New Zealand, US, they had 120 swimming lessons, 40 Swim schools, the results were that kids showed better physical development, more confidence or swimming, they achieved physical milestones faster and scored significantly higher in things like cutting paper, coloring, drawing, you know, drawing in lines and shapes. The kids were anywhere from six to 15 months ahead of the normal population in cognitive skills, problem-solving, mathematics, reasoning, counting, language, and following instructions, and 17 months ahead in story recall. So I mean, there’s just so many other benefits that have been shown, like through this study, that not only is it just a great skill to learn, and it is, you know, when we say, you know, swimming is a sport, we think of it as a sport, but it truly is a life skill. 

Karlene Grabner  25:37


Susie Van Ekeren  24:41

That everybody really should have. But then there are just so many other benefits from it.

John Holland  24:44

And yeah, when you said so many risks involved. That’s life. Right life has, I mean, that’s, that’s why I have a job. There are just so many risks out there. And it goes back to common sense and swim lessons. That’s an easy fix. Right. And again, you’re not drown-proof. But I didn’t know it was 88%. That’s fantastic. You have to take some responsibility to keep yourself and your kids safe.

Karlene Grabner  26:08

Is there a tip you can give to kiddos or even adults? That if something were to happen, and they’re scared, like what do what can they do? Do they just put their body upright and tread water? Do they try to get on their back? Like, is there a way you could say if you guys do nothing, this is what you should do until someone can get to you? As opposed to panicking?

Susie Van Ekeren 26:28

Absolutely. You know, we go into panic mode immediately. So you know, my advice is always when I was whenever I’m swimming, I’m like the first thing you want to do is you want to roll over to your back and float. You want to get there because you need to bring your heart rate down. So you roll out your back, your faces out of the water, just try to, you know, try to relax as much as you possibly can because the more your muscles are tightened, the more you’re going to sink your head where muscles are heavier. So if you tighten up your muscles, your body is going to sink if you relax your muscles, you’re going to float. So try to at least relax enough to kind of bring your heart rate down and be able to think through, like, what am I supposed to do nex?t You know get your get your breathing in order and then try to remember where you are where you’re at try to yell scream or whatever then if you can rollover and do some you know some breaststroke or some you know depending upon what kind of swimmer you are, or what’s happened you know if you can get to where you need to go great, but if you can yell you know You’re back, you’re mouth and your face are out of the water so you can yell and scream and do whatever you need to do until somebody can help you.

Karlene Grabner  27:30

And, John, this is a question I have out of curiosity. And maybe you’re prepared for this, and maybe not. But like, what is our safety? Like? Do we have a lot of tragedy in our area over the summers? Or do our people generally pretty safe in their activities on boats and all that kind of stuff?

John Holland  27:49

Actually, people around here are very, very safe. We have about maybe, I would say, five to ten water rescues a year, which is five to ten too many. But when you think of all the boats and swimming that’s going on around here, I mean, sometimes you look across the river, and it looks like you could walk right across on all the boats that are out there. 

Karlene Grabner  28:11


John Holland  28:12

So yeah, we are either very lucky, or very safer combination of both, and we’ll take it.

Karlene Grabner  28:19

I always say it’s a privilege for us to live where we do. And I think people respect the water and how big it is, and how scary it can be. So I think people are hopefully more prepared than not. And I guess by listening to you, it sounds like people are doing a pretty decent job.

John Holland  28:33

And I think you’re right, they realize they are out of their element. This is not an everyday thing. That’s just a guess on my part, but it is you’re obviously doing something very out of the ordinary for everyday life. And I’m going to stop talking now, which I can never ever do. So give you a little editing to do, because that’s kind of your thing. Let’s see how good you really are. Because I can just keep going forever.

Amanda Chavez  29:01

No, we appreciate you! Yeah, you taking the time to share this with us. Yeah, we’re looking forward to sharing more with listeners and their families. As always, after the episode we’ll share all the things that we talked about today, along with local resources from swimming lessons to educational tools on Go Oshkosh kids in our Facebook groups.

Karlene Grabner  29:18

Join us for our next episode, when we’ll talk about the joy of adventuring with our families close to home and those far away on trips.

Amanda Chavez  29:26

Thanks again to our guests Susie and John, for sharing their time and knowledge with us. And thanks to our producer Liz Schultz, our audio and video engineer Marlo Ambus. And of course to my co host, Karlene Grabner and the support of the Women’s Fund of Oshkosh. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in. And we’d love for you to share the episode with a friend, subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, or leave us a review. Let’s talk again next month.

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