Teaching people to swim

Richard Branson in a pool wearing glasses and a wet suit
Image by Charlie Dailey
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 14 May 2019

When I was a little boy I won 10 shillings from my Auntie Joyce by jumping into a freezing Devon river and trying to swim for the first time. Somehow, I survived, won the bet, and ever since then I have loved swimming. I especially love teaching people to swim – using far less drastic methods than my Auntie Joyce!

Richard Branson teaching swimming lessons in the pool
Image by Victor Ochen

When Victor Ochen, a remarkable young leader from Uganda, visited recently for a Virgin Unite and Igniting Change gathering, I quickly learned he didn’t know how to swim. He got here from the airport via boat, and was very keen to ensure he didn’t fall in! I offered to teach him to swim. He looked at me very skeptically, but was eager to give it a go.

Later on, we got in the pool together and I took him through the simple steps I have used to teach hundreds of people to swim. Memorably, Archbishop Tutu was one of these – he thanked me for my assistance by splashing me in the face! I start by getting them to put the lower part of their head underwater, repeating until they have their whole head under and eyes open. I then get them to see how long they can hold their breath underwater.

Richard Branson at a swim up bar
Image by Virgin.com

Victor was the perfect example. He swam under water for three-quarters of the pool. His head popped up and he continued all the way across, breathing normally, with the biggest grin on his face.

With his relentless work and travel schedule as leader of the African Youth Initiative Network and a member of The NewNow, Victor was also exhausted. As he wrote to us afterwards: “I didn't realise how tired I was, so when I got in I slept like a big penguin.” But rest assured, we couldn’t keep Victor out of the pool once he knew how to swim!

Congratulations Victor on your new skill and for all of your inspiration.