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Swimmers target world record at Wild Waves

Isabella Karejwa, 3, prepares to enter the wave pool at Wild Waves Thursday during an attempt to break the World
Isabella Karejwa, 3, prepares to enter the wave pool at Wild Waves Thursday during an attempt to break the World's Largest Swim Lesson record. The water park was one of many facilities that hosted a swim lesson simultaneously, beginning at 7 a.m. PST.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

Nearly a dozen people rolled out of bed early Thursday to go swimming at Wild Waves Theme Park in Federal Way, where they participated in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for largest swim lesson.

Around the globe, numerous water parks, pools and aquatic facilities simultaneously held a 45-minute swim course for participants in the World's Largest Swimming Lesson. The event started at 7 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Besides contributing to what could be a world record, the host facilities hoped to spread awareness about the value of water safety and knowing how to swim.

"Teaching children to swim is a key component in drowning prevention, and The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson program is a great way for local communities to draw attention to this message at the start of the swimming season," said Rowdy Gaines, three-time Olympic gold medalist, 11-time world record holder and spokesman for the World's Largest Swimming Lesson, in a statement issued by Wild Waves.

World's Largest Swimming Lesson Organization has given hundreds of participating host sites until June 9 to turn in their participant count. The organization will then wait to hear from Guinness World Records to see if the record was broken.

"We are confident that we have set the new record based on the requirements set by Guinness," said Beth Root, World's Largest Swimming Lesson Organization spokeswoman.

An instructor taught participants the basics of swimming — arm movement, floating, etc. — in Wild Waves Theme Park's heated wave pool. Toddlers, adults, youngsters and teens showed up at the water park to be counted in the record-breaking attempt. Despite the still chilly temperatures, the sun was out and the younger swimmers were eager to get in the water. Each swimmer got a certificate of participation.

Nicholas Maggie, 10, and Aidan Maggie, 6, were among the participants. Their mom, Michele Maggie, works at the water park. Nicholas heard about the event and asked if he could be a part of it, Michele Maggie said. The boys said they have swam before and were excited to be a part of the action. They practiced their swimming skills before heading to class.

"(It's) something to talk about in class," Michele Maggie said.

Aaron Karejwa, another Wild Waves employee, fireman and EMT, brought his daughter to participate in the record-breaking attempt. Isabella Karejwa, 3, has had swim lessons in the past and is not scared of the water, her father said.

Karejwa brought Isabella to participate in the event because he believes all kids should know how to swim without help from floatation devices, he said. Washington state has a lot of water; kids and adults alike need to be educated on water safety, he said.

"Swimming accidents can be avoided by education and teaching," Karejwa said.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death of children ages 1 to 14, according to www.worldslargestswimminglesson.org. If a child has not learned to swim by the third grade, it is highly likely he or she will never learn, according to the website.

Wild Waves chose to be a host facility for the World's Largest Swimming Lesson because it takes swim safety seriously, spokesman John Hays said.

"In addition to the fun time, we want to make sure our guests have a safe time out here," he said.

The World's Largest Swimming Lesson was put together by the following water safety and training organizations: Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, International Swimming Hall of Fame, International Swim Instructors Association, Independent Pool and Spa Service Association, Jeff Ellis and Associates, National Aquatic Safety Company, National Recreation and Parks Association, Starfish Aquatics Institute, Swim For Life Foundation, United States Swim School Association and the World Waterpark Association.

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