YOUTH MATTERS Kelly Wickham...Why taking the plunge has never felt so good...

As babies and young children a fundamental part of growing up is learning to swim.

Despite the evolution that humans have progressed through, sprouting fins and gills has never happened, and therefore we have adapted through specialist oxygen tanks and streamlined diving suits.

On a recent trip to Cyprus, I watched a father teach his young toddler, wearing arm bands, to swim.

His method was to simply pick her up, place her a distance from the shore and watch her paddle back to the sand, occasionally dunking her head full under the sea water. More than 20 years older than the toddler, I looked on in jealousy. Her fear factor was low and her confidence high.

Unfortunately as a small child I didn’t grasp the swimming talent; in fact I was bottom of the pool and in my swimming class.

I relied heavily on floats, arm bands or even scratching my fingernails frantically against the shiny tiles.

Throughout my years, I have always dreaded swimming.

I remember my nan taking my brother, cousin and I to Butlin’s and spending hours in the pool when we were very young.

Sadly as my nan couldn’t swim, she would watch, and as my brother and cousin were confident, they would ride the flumes, the rapids and the wave machines. That would leave me riding down the bumpy slide to end up practically in a small puddle of water, ankle depth.

Before I knew it, I had a big phobia about swimming and drowning and no matter who tried, nobody could persuade me to do anything about it.

I’m not sure what happened between being adamant that I wouldn’t learn, to today, maybe it was just stroppy teenage years, but something clicked in my brain recently, and I realised I didn’t want to grow older, possibly have children, and never enjoy being able to swim, alone or with them.

I wondered what I had been doing all this time, and plucked up the courage to admit my phobia and get some help.

I’m two lessons into my classes, one-to-one, at the local leisure centre and I can already see progress.

I never thought I’d step foot in my local pool, and now I can already float on my back without panicking.

I’m so proud of the short journey I have already come, and it just proves it’s never too late to learn.