For years, when on holiday in Ayia Napa, Charlie Dark would “look cool around the pool with my sunglasses on and get in the shallow end but that’s as far as my skills went”. But now the 44-year-old DJ and creative writing teacher is learning to swim for the first time so he can enjoy swimming with his two children.
Dark is far from unusual: according to the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), one in five adults in England are unable to swim – more than nine million people – despite swimming also being the most popular participation sport in the country.
Like many, Dark’s memories of school swimming lessons are not fond ones: the teachers “just stood on the side and shouted at you”, and so he grew up with a secret fear of the water.
Six weeks ago, however, he joined a challenge in which 15 non-swimming adults began training to do the Great North Swim – a mile in open water – in four months’ time.
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