Swimming in Germany

It’s summer time and those of us in Germany have just emerged from an intense week of record breaking heat (40 degrees C/104.5 degrees F). What to do in this heat in an air condition-less country? Hit the water.

While dipping your feet into that water might be all you need, you might want to go all the way. If you’re wondering how water safe you or your child is, fear not, there is a swimming testing process here in Germany that tells you exactly what your level is.

The early swim badges. PHOTO: Jane Park

The early swim badges. PHOTO: Jane Park

For kids, the first level is Seepferdchen (sea horse). To get this badge, your little one will have to jump in the water and be able to swim 25 meters without pausing. She or he will also have to be able to retrieve a ring from the floor of the pool at a depth of shoulder height, and no, you can’t just use your feet. Getting your Seepferdchen badge is the first breakthrough after months or years of swim lessons in many cities in different countries with multiple teachers. No, I am not bitter, especially since my second out of three children got her Seahorse badge last week.

If you read the fine print on the small certificate you get in addition to the badge that you can sew on your child’s swimsuit (she’ll be asking you every day if you’ve done it until it’s done), you’ll note that Seepferdchen does not really mean water safe or else water safe for a long time. To be safer in the water, the next step is getting Bronze. To do so, a youth under the age of 18 will need to jump in and swim 200 meters without pausing in 15 minutes or under. She or he will also have to be able to collect a ring from a depth of approximately two meters and be able to dive head first into the water or jump from a height of one meter. You also have to know the swimming rules or Baderegeln. Today I had the pleasure of witnessing two of my kids get their Bronze badge. Not bad, especially for the kid who just got her Seepferdchen last week!

Silber follows with the requirement of swimming 400 meters under 25 minutes. 300 meters have to be on your stomach and the 100 must be on your back. Your child will have to dive in for a ring at a 2 meter depth twice, dive headfirst in the water and cover a stretch of 10 meters, jump in the water from a height of three meters and not only know the Baderegeln, but also self-rescue rules.

In order to attain Gold, a child needs to be at least nine-years-old. There’s a lot of water to cover:

  • 600 meters within 24 minutes
  • 50 meters of the breaststroke in 70 seconds
  • 25 meters of front crawl
  • 50 meters of backstroke with frog legs without the use of arms or normal backstroke
  • Deep diving from the water’s surface and retrieving three rings from a depth of two meters within three minutes during a maximum three attempts
  • 15 meter distance diving
  • Diving head first from three meters above water
  • 50 meters of transport swimming either pushing or pulling
  • Knowledge of swimming rules
  • and knowledge of what to do in the case of swimming, boating and ice accidents.

For adults, the requirements are similar except that the time requirements are shorter and the distances might be longer.  All details for both the youth and adult swim requirements can be found here. Meanwhile, enjoy the water and keep safe, and maybe you might want to check out these recommended beaches in Germany during these days of sunshine.

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