Skip to content


Articles by Tiffany Harmon published on…and Growing Up in Santa Cruz.

Tiffany Harmon , owner of Seahorse Swim School, is an American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor Trainer and has been teaching swimming lessons since 1985. She holds a BA in Psychology and a Teaching Credential in Health and Safety. Jr. Guard Programs, swim lessons, swim team and parent tot classes are offered through Seahorse Swim School in Aptos and Santa Cruz. Visit www.SeahorseSwimSchool.comfor program information.

Aquatics in the Time of COVID-19

Treading safely into the new Guidelines

Published in GUISC May 2020

“There is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through properly treated water used in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds.”

Summer is upon us! As of the writing of this article, California has entered into Stage 4 of Governor Newsom’s reopening guidelines. As of June 12, 2020, pools and fitness clubs were allowed to re-open after proper precautionary procedures are implemented as stated in the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines.

Santa Cruz County is home to many active and outdoorsy families, so beach and pool closures have affected us profoundly. As we venture outside and get active again, the questions and concerns remain — How do we keep our families safe and inhibit the spread of COVID-19 in an aquatic environment?

While our beaches are (at the time of this writing this article) closed from 11am – 5pm each day for lounging or sitting, the ocean remains open for water sports (e.g., surfing, boogie-boarding, swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking, boating, etc.). Individuals may cross the sand during beach closure hours in order to access the ocean. Good news for Surf City!

For those who like to spend summers by the pool, there is good news here as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through properly treated water used in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Proper operation and disinfection of pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes COVID-19.”

A recent New York Times article quoted Dr. Ebb Lautenbach, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine as saying, “There’s nothing inherent about ocean water or especially pool water that is risky. The bug isn’t transmitted via a waterborne route. Chlorine and bromine that are in pools inactivate the virus and makes it even lower risk in terms of catching it from the water.”

USA Swimming, the American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control have published guidelines for our safe return to the pool. General guidelines will continue to be in place poolside: 6 feet of social distancing, 20 second hand washing and staying home if experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms. Wearing masks will continue to be in place in the aquatic environment.

To slow the spread of the virus, the CDC recommends that as a parent, consider whether children are “capable of staying at least 6 feet apart from people they don’t live with before taking them to a public aquatic venue.” There must be frequent disinfecting and sanitizing of surfaces such as handrails, pool noodles, kickboards, and any and all furniture on the pool deck.

New implemented protocols for recreational and lap swimming might include having to make reservations for a lane with only one person or family group per lane. There might be a limited number of swimmers allowed into the pool area at a time. There is also limited to no use of locker rooms or communal changing areas. Saunas, jacuzzis, and steam rooms, according to the guidelines, should remain closed.

Consider investing and carrying in personal swimming training tools: kickboard, pull buoy, towels, goggles for each swimmer and toys for the children (discourage sharing of toys at this time). Keep in mind, each location – private clubs, gyms, fitness centers and public pools, etc. – may have slight variations in their procedures. You might want to call ahead or check their website to see what safety precautions have been put in place.

Some general considerations from the California Department of Public Health are:

  • Eliminate use of low ventilated spaces and rooms that prevent social distancing, such as locker rooms.
  • Increase water sanitation level.
  • Create visible markers on the floor to indicate appropriate spacing on the pool deck, entrances, etc.
  • Wash hands thoroughly or use a hand sanitizer before/after use of the pool.
  • Do not use the locker room or changing area; wear a bathing suit to and from the pool and shower at home.
  • During recreational swimming, lifeguards will be wearing masks while guarding (removing them when water entry is needed for a rescue).
  • Children over 2 years old to wear masks
  • Masks now required in California

For summer swim lessons you may discover private lessons, semi-private lessons or custom classes made with families living under the same roof to be a safe bet for the family. Perhaps the swim teacher might have one or both parents in the pool with their children while the instructor is teaching from the deck. One may find a water camp with children under 10 enrolled. Check in with the swim school on their drop off and pick-up patterns and other precautions prior to arrival to avoid surprises.

Group activities with over 10 participants have not been approved as yet, but when the swim team resumes, coaches might:

  • Encourage swimmers to wear their suit to and from practice.
  • Bring older swimmers back to practice first, let them learn the system so they can serve to model behavior for younger athletes.
  • Clearly communicate a plan to maintain spacing in the pool during workouts, e.g. staggered starts, opposite ends.
  • Make sure swimmers leave the facility as soon as reasonably possible after practice; shower at home.

Please note that while swimmers and sunbathers are supposed to wear masks poolside, masks that cover the mouth are NOT required (nor recommended) for use in the water. To avoid breathing difficulties a wet mask may pose, DO NOT WEAR a mask or any material covering the mouth or nose while in the water.

As we have seen, situations can – and do – change rapidly in a pandemic. To ensure that we are all up to date with the current information, review and for updated local guidelines often. Knowing what is expected from the businesses and what to expect as the customer will ease us into changing and adapting as we adjust. Remember, we are supposed to be opening slowly and gradually. The goal is to stop the spread of the virus; so take the necessary precautions.

We know our Santa Cruz families are eager to get active again. While we want to enjoy some good summer fun in the sun, it can be tough to adjust to limitations. So, let’s focus on participating in activities we can safely enjoy and keep ourselves, our families and our friends safe and healthy this Summer!

Tiffany Harmon, owner and lead instructor of Seahorse Swim School, Inc. is an American Red Cross Instructor Trainer in Water Safety and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from UCSC. (831) 661- 5110

Preparing for Jr. Lifeguard Programs

Published in GUISC May 2015

Jr. Lifeguard programs in Santa Cruz County are very popular with parents and kids alike. While some children are enthusiastic about swimming in the ocean, others are not quite ready for the deep blue sea. Fortunately, there are both pool and ocean Summer Junior Lifeguard programs for young swimmers in Santa Cruz County.

To prepare your child for the program that suits them best, follow these tips:

~ Check the brochures or websites for the prerequisites to ensure that you know what is expected of them in order to pass and join the program of choice. There are varying requirements and schedules, so consider all of the factors and leave enough time to get ready. If your child has not been in the water since last Summer, consider the swim lessons or pre-training to make the experience safer and more enjoyable. Take advantage of multiple testing days in case your child needs to try out more than once to be successful.

Lesson: if you don’t succeed at first, try, try again.

~ Swimming skills usually digress from the previous Summer unless the individual is training regularly. To refresh form, build confidence and improve endurance, enroll in a Spring swim lesson program at least a month prior to be well prepared and successful on testing day. When short on time to prepare, private swim lessons can hone in on the skills needed to pass the tests and provide quick results.

~ Get suited up! Protection from the elements (sun, wind and fog) is key to ensure that they are comfortable for full days of activities. Ocean water temperatures range from 51 to 58 degrees in the Summer and Santa Cruz if often foggy in the morning, so consider a wetsuit or rashguard to help them stay warm no matter what the weather report says. Waterproof/sweatproof sunscreen is imperative even if foggy (apply before leaving the house). Don’t forget lots of towels (or a shammy to preserve towels), hats and sunglasses to protect from the elements. Pack drinking water and snacks full of fiber, protein and carbohydrates to give them energy to happily participate in a full day of activities.

To help the participant get acclimated to the environment, visit the program site or get in the ocean with them in advance of your program possible. Swim often and swim as much as you can prior to the program start date. If your children are water lovers, they may do very well on a a year round swim team or water polo program.

With enough time, practice and preparation your child will be the star of the Program!

Techniques to Help Shy or Fearful Children Learn to Swim


We come in all shapes and sizes, with past experiences and fears and with our own personalities and ways of learning new things. In our aquatic community, it is important that every person, young and old learn to swim. Below are a few techniques to simplify the ways we can get your shy or fearful child to their first swim lesson.

Communicate with your instructor in advance of the lesson to identify the participant’s fears. Discuss how the fears surface and how they are handled at home. Ask the instructor what the process will be for the first swim lesson so that you can discuss this with your child in advance of the first lesson.

Validate the child’s fears and explain that they are going to be learning new skills in a safe place. Explain the process & let your child know what they can expect from the lesson in advance. Often, if we know what is expected of us early on, we are able to relax and open up to learning new things. Visit the pool before your lesson & have them watch a current class. This will give the child a chance to see what they may be doing and will help acclimate them to their new learning environment.

Bring a favorite waterproof toy to the lesson to assist the child in being comfortable in their new aquatic environment.

Maintain consistency to allow the student to develop trust with the teacher. Limit the variables: same time, same location, same instructor, same positive feedback. Consistency is key. Keep coming back. Make swimming part of their ongoing schedule.

Reward the learner by taking notice to things they did well big and small. Ask them to tell/show you what they learned that day; what was the best part of their swim lesson. As we learn new skills and techniques, we like to know we did a good job. Reinforce the learner by noticing and commenting on their accomplishments.

Tiffany Harmon, owner of Seahorse Swim School, has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UCSC. With over 25 years of experience, Tiffany has nurtured the development of thousands of swimmers, as well as Water Safety Instructors (WSI) & lifeguards in Santa Cruz County. Tiffany is an Instructor Trainer for the American Red Cross; she trains swim instructors and lifeguards in Santa Cruz County. (831) 476-7946

The Benefit of American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim Programs

Published in April 2011
kid swimmingHappy Swimmers Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, developed the American Red Cross’s Learn-to-Swim Program in 1914, and published his first article in the May 1921 Edition of the Junior Red Cross News. He said that the first step in learning to swim was to overcome fears of the water. The next steps would be to learn how float like a jellyfish, to breathe in and out with your mouth making sounds like a motorboat, to glide & slide through the water and to use your windmill arms and powerful kicks to push yourself through the water like a steamboat. The last suggestion he gave was to practice, practice, practice.Red Cross swim programs continue the traditions by utilizing the century long ways of the Learn-to-Swim program. Through a progressive, six-level instructional approach, Water Safety Instructors teach to the individual and include water safety topics in the lessons. Whether in a group environment or in a private lesson, instructors focus on helping each swimmer overcome their fears by providing a safe learning environment. As participants gain confidence in the water, they begin to open up to learning new aquatic skills.
kid on a poolHappy SwimmerClear, concise instructions are paired with positive corrective feedback to teach and correct the motor skills used for each stroke. Swimmers are coached to repeat skills, allowing them ample practice time within each lesson.
Red Cross Learn-to-Swim Program emphasizes water safety while increasing swimming skills and overall fitness. Each participant is taught with patience, encouragement and expertise.Happy SwimmerA new Red Cross Learn-to-Swim program for adults, infants and children, adult lap swimming, a non-competitive swim team, water aerobics, public recreational swim times and a Pool Jr. Guard program opens this summer at Santa Cruz High School. These programs will continue the Commodore’s technique of encouraging “bathers to be swimmers and swimmers to be lifesavers.”

kid on a poolTiffany Harmon, owner and operator of Seahorse Swim School, is an American Red Cross Instructor Trainer in Water Safety. She earned her Bachelors of Arts degree at UCSC in 1997, specializing in Child Education and Development and holds a California Teaching Credential in Health and Safety. You can find Tiffany and her instructors at Toadal Fitness, Seascape Sports Club, Chaminade and Santa Cruz High School. (831) 476-7946 or for more program information.

Skip to content