August 30, 2014 6:35 AM   Subscribe

A New Yorker Faces His Phobia, One Stroke at a Time [New York Times] With Intensive Swim Lessons, a Man Attacks His Fear of Water
"Traumatized by childhood incidents, Attis Clopton was deathly afraid of water, so he attacked his phobia by enrolling in a program of swimming lessons."
posted by Fizz (24 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Spoiler: It's nice to read about someone facing their fears, pushing through it, and having a happy ending. We should all be so fearless and inspired.
posted by Fizz at 6:42 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well done chap.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:44 AM on August 30, 2014

I have an intense fear of work. But it only seems to be getting worse with exposure.
posted by jenh526 at 6:58 AM on August 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Dreams of grandeur were setting in: doing a triathlon, scuba diving, tackling his fear of heights by trying roller coasters or sky diving. He felt rewired. “I might become a superhero,” he said.

I'm a queasy adult who flails more than swims, so Mr. Clopton is already a superhero to me. Thanks for this post; now I'm looking up swimming lessons again.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:39 AM on August 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

That's an awesome article. I'm a little older than this man, and I definitely have things that I assume that I'm just n ever going to be able to do. Maybe it's time to start re-thinking.

Also, I'm glad that he's going to teach his kids to swim. Much easier to learn anything as a kid.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:11 AM on August 30, 2014

Gratuitous sexist aside by the NYT writer: "Some, one imagines, are pretty much universal. Pentheraphobia: fear of your mother-in-law."
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:15 AM on August 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Good catch, ClaudiaCenter. Want to start the pile-on?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:20 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lol I otherwise like the article.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:26 AM on August 30, 2014

“Is it all you dreamed it would be?” one of his friends asked.
“That and so much more,” Mr. Clopton said.

This is heartwarming, truly wonderful to see him work past his fear and not let it stop him.
posted by arcticseal at 8:33 AM on August 30, 2014

This resonates with me a lot, because I also got over a pretty extreme fear of water, to the point where like one of the students in the article I couldn't bring myself to stand with my face in the shower spray. I was only 10/11ish at the time, but where I grew up everyone was swimming at 3 so that still meant I was lagging far behind and took flak from my peers for it. Swimming lessons were frustrating and grueling, but today I find swimming to be one of the most calming experiences I can think of. I am glad programs like Ms. Pailet's exist so that other people can find that incredible calm.
posted by capricorn at 8:58 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

A survey this year for the Red Cross found that more than half of Americans either cannot swim or have not perfected five basic safety skills, like being able to swim 25 yards.

aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye

They used to have mandatory swim class in middle school PE.
posted by bukvich at 9:14 AM on August 30, 2014

Middle schools used to have pools.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:19 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel like someone is already working on the indie rom-com about a brassy middle-aged former accessory designer and her gentle, New-Agey ex-con boyfriend who run a swimming school for the water-phobic in the middle of New York. Or maybe it should be a sit-com. Anyway, someone is working on a script.

Anyway, three cheers for Attis Clopton for doing something really difficult and worthwhile.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:49 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

A small minority of schools around me had pools.
posted by jpe at 10:06 AM on August 30, 2014

Swimming is a birthright. I can't imagine a childhood without it.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:16 PM on August 30 [+] [!]

Sadly, for many people it is not. The opportunity/financial costs involved are frequent barriers. You need to have access and time made available.

Thankfully, I was lucky enough to join Scouting as a child and I soon earned my "Swimming Merit Badge". I really should thank my parents for all the many opportunities I've been given.
posted by Fizz at 10:25 AM on August 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

I read this just as I was suiting up to swim at a nearby lake.

There are a lot of good swimming areas near me, and every summer I am shocked at how few of those using them can actually swim. The majority stand about in chest-deep water while a handful use the lanes.

Apparently the movement to build public pools in the US, motivated as it was to provide a means to clean the Unwashed Masses, has left us with a legacy of public swimming areas without the knowledge to use them properly and safely. Few public schools have budgets for swimming pools so unless parents seek out lessons kids never learn.

I enjoyed reading this. Good on this guy for pursuing lessons. He'll never regret it.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:32 AM on August 30, 2014

As a kid I was afraid of swimming. My parents made me take years of swimming lessons.

I am now an adult who is afraid of swimming. Thanks for the opportunity, parents.
posted by squinty at 10:38 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Perhaps the temporal distance of these illustrations from The Art Of Swimming (1587), will aid in providing psychological distance from the fear of water.
posted by fairmettle at 11:31 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's an age-old story.
posted by theora55 at 11:59 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mr. Clopton has my unmitigated admiration for confronting and triumphing over his fears, but if I know my laws of ironic causality, he's going to get eaten by a shark.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:18 PM on August 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

They used to have mandatory swim class in middle school PE.

In my experience, providing one-time swim classes isn't much help if people don't have regular access to a pool.

I went to a middle school that had mandatory 8th grade swim classes thanks to its affiliation with a city college. This involved distributing extra tokens to students, having them commute between the school and the college, and rearranging their schedules to make that possible.

The end result? By the time I was an adult, I understood swimming as a concept, but lacked either the practice or the strength to feel confident in the water.

I took a class at the Y last year, which was fantastic, but I'm now back out of practice. It's probably time to get back on the (sea) horse.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:34 PM on August 30, 2014

That photo of him with a swimming cap on his dreadlocks is the best thing.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:48 AM on August 31, 2014

posted by nzero at 9:09 AM on August 31, 2014

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