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Little Turtles Take to the Sea

Piper Underwood | Rimini

Photos Lina Waage



On a beautiful May Day, my sister and I sit poolside timing my 7-year-old to see if he can tread water for the two minutes required to pass the Little Turtle swim test. With two weeks until the test, my son can tread water for 15 seconds. My sister casually asks if I can get my deposit back. All I can think is we should’ve started this process sooner.

The Little Turtle program is a pre-Jr. Lifeguard Program for 7 and 8 year olds introducing the kids to beach awareness, safety, and respect for the ocean and its inhabitants. The requirements for passing the Little Turtle swim test are thus: Child must swim 50 yards freestyle under 3 minutes. Child must retrieve object from shallow water. Child must tread water for two minutes.

Fast forward two weeks to the sparkling new Pardee Aquatic Center at the Solana Beach Boys & Girls Club. My son’s name is called and just as he’s about to enter the pool, I remind him to remove his blue crocs from his feet.

He completes the shallow water object retrieval with ease. Now for the swim test. Did I mention he’s afraid of the deep end of the pool? I guess it’s some sort of aquatic vertigo. I would have attempted hypnotherapy on him, but we ran out of time.
Now it’s sink or swim. He swims.

It’s August now, and yesterday was the last day of the last session for Little Turtles. It culminates in Little Turtle Parent Day where parents meet the Little Turtle instructors, including the eminent “Turtle” herself, and participate in some of the activities their children have been doing for the last few weeks.

Even though it appears our children are just having fun and playing games at the beach, it becomes evident through the day, they are absorbing more than just sunshine. They demonstrate a proper ocean rescue on us parents. We all survive. They have learned to identify rip currents and brittle stars, and they’ve learned the stingray shuffle, a Tim Conway-like shuffle used to keep the stingrays at bay.
But most of all they have made new friends.

I meet Jack, who I am told by my son is from the “mountains” here in San Diego. I assume he’s from Pine Valley or perhaps out near one of the observatories and wonder if he’s vacationing in town or drives out each morning. I later find that he’s from Rancho Santa Fe. Perhaps he lives on a hill.

As another season of Little Turtles comes to a close, we can rest assured that our beaches will be that much safer for our children, and those visiting the Del Mar beaches, including Jack, who’s from the mountains of Rancho Santa Fe.


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