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Is It Possible To Learn To Swim Using A Life Jacket Or PFD?

Learning to swim is a skill that everyone should have, yet surprisingly many people do not. You may be wondering if you can learn how to swim while you are wearing a life jacket or other personal floatation device. Learning the proper way to swim can not only save your life but add a lot of fun to your summer. 

Generally, it’s not advised to learn how to swim while wearing a life jacket or other type of personal floatation device. While useful in emergencies, life jackets can hinder a person’s ability to move through the water properly. They can be used initially but should not be relied upon for long. 

If you want to know more about learning more about swimming with a life jacket or PFD, continue reading for helpful information. 

mother and daughter on a boat getting life jacket on - can you learn to swim with a life jacket

Learn to Swim Without a Life Jacket – What to Know

Of the seven billion people inhabiting this earth, it is estimated that approximately four billion of those individuals do not know how to swim. This number seems unfathomable, considering that nearly 71% of the earth is covered in water. 

It is said that there are over 350,000 deaths globally every year due to accidental drowning. This number could be significantly reduced if more people would simply learn how to swim. 

Not only is swimming an important life-saving skill, but it is a great way to get into shape and have fun during the dog days of summer. 

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, it is generally not recommended that a person learn how to swim while wearing a life jacket or other PFD. 

Life jackets should be worn as a safety precaution while aboard a water vessel and are good for those who are not strong swimmers, but learning to swim is still the best option in the event you cannot access a PFD in time. 

Although techniques may vary from one instructor to another, the following steps are generally recommended for those who are learning to swim. 

Get Acquainted With the Water

No matter your age, if you do not know how to swim, water can be intimidating and, for some, downright scary. Before you can learn to swim, you need to conquer your fear of water (if you have one). 

The best way to do this is to enter the water via a shallow point. Try sitting in the water up to your chest or neck and just let it flow around you. Splash around or just sit and enjoy the feeling of the water as it moves around you until you are comfortable. 

Learn How to Breathe

Once you are comfortable with being in the water, it is time to get your face wet and learn how to breathe properly. You may think that is silly because you have been breathing since the day you were born, so why do you need to learn how to breathe again? 

Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to breathe while you are swimming. Begin by taking a deep breath and putting your face in the water. Then slowly exhale and let the bubbles out. 

Come up for air and repeat several times until you are comfortable with this step. Oftentimes we try to hold our breath as we are swimming; this technique is actually counterproductive and, in the end, will cost you more energy. 

Another common mistake new swimmers make is they take their entire head out of the water when they take a breath. This technique will also cost you more speed and energy. 

Instead of lifting your whole head out of the water, turn your head just enough to get your face out of the water, draw in a breath and continue on until you need more air. 

Floating – Being One With the Water 

Aside from proper breathing, learning to float is one of the most important things you can do. Floating can save your life if you are swimming and get tired or are involved in a watercraft accident and are stranded without a PFD. 

You can rely on your floating skills to save your life until you are rescued or regain the strength to swim again. Many people have a difficult time floating. They tend to get tense and forget to breathe properly, which causes them to sink. 

To float, you must be one with the water. Think of yourself as though you are floating on air. Imagine that your body is a balloon; when you inhale deeply, your chest will fill with air and expand, which in turn will keep you afloat. 

When you exhale, your body will sink; gently move your hands and feet as you are exhaling to keep you above water and take another breath. If you relax and focus on your breathing, you can float for hours at a time if needed. 

When to Use Life Jackets and PFDs

Using a life jacket or PFD can delay a person’s ability to learn to swim properly, which is why most instructors do not incorporate them into their lessons.

Wearing a life jacket while trying to swim can be difficult. Most life jackets are bulky and restrict natural swimming motions

Using a life jacket can also give a new swimmer a false sense of security. They may think that they are ready to swim without the jacket, only to discover that they were relying on the life jacket more than they realized. 

Although life jackets are not recommended, many instructors will use other devices such as a kickboard or a foam noodle to use as an aid for new learners to learn how to:

  • Put their face in the water
  • Practice breathing techniques 
  • Kick properly and move through the water

These devices are generally used for a very short period of time as an aid until a person is comfortable in the water and has mastered the basic skills discussed earlier in this article. 

Learn to Be Your Own PFD 

Knowing how to swim can relieve a lot of anxiety when it comes to participating in water activities. It does not matter if you are young or old; you can learn how to swim.

The best way to learn is to sign up for classes with an experienced instructor who can teach you the proper techniques.

Have fun learning, and be safe!