Finding the local YMCA or community pool is easy and inexpensive; but since quality on these classes varies widely (even within a single facility), we’re here to tell you where Angelenos who are serious about getting the job done keep their kids afloat - and it doesn't have to cost a mint.
Private and semi-private lessons don't necessarily require a private pool, and they do get kids on the fast track to independent swimming. Several popular instructors and schools make use of public pools or swing deals with private pool owners to make private instruction accessible to everyone.
The legendary Coach Syd of LA Surf and Swim is the guy responsible for the highest number of successful swimmers west of the 405. He and his team apply a zen-like calm that eases the fears of students from infant to older kids, usually in tandem, semi-private lessons. The school also offers ocean swimming classes and surfing lessons. Lesson times can be booked individually online or by phone, with location options (around the Westside and Malibu) offered at time of booking. ($27-$32 per 30 minute lesson)
The inland side of the 405 has long been the territory of swim school impresario and Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg, whose academy at the JCC on the Miracle Mile boasts a patented learn-to-swim method developed by the Olympic star himself. Kids in the Valley can get their strokes down the Krayzelburg way at the West Hills JCC. Fees at both locations must be paid monthly, with the first lesson free. ($72-$117 per month, plus $55 annual fee)
Another popular swim guru of the Valley is the Water Whisperer, with locations in Sherman Oaks and Woodland Hills. Head coach Emily Cohen takes particular pride in cracking tough cases and getting infants afloat, and happy parents attest to her success. Lessons must be booked in blocks of 10 and paid up front. ($350-$420 per 10 lessons)
Longtime neighborhood staple Beverlywood Swim School is working on its third generation of swimmers at its highly visible location on Robertson Boulevard. All lessons are private and sold in blocks of five, with a practice pool available for use after lessons and at other times. ($160 per five lessons, plus $20 annual fee)
Valley Village families sing the praises of Jim Herrick Swim School, another that’s been in its neighborhood for multiple generations. Herrick himself still gets in the pool, and everyone who works there teaches his personal, laid back, stress-free method. Private lessons and classes are available and can be paid one at a time with an annual membership. ($33 per 20 minute lesson, plus $35 annual fee)
Head Above Water offers almost as many locations as Starbucks – if Starbucks delivered. Families with private pools can arrange home visits, and everyone else can choose from an exhaustive list of public and hotel pools. Lessons are all private, with the exception of semi-private Parent & Me classes, and available in blocks of six or 10 (starting at $585 per 10 lessons).
Water Otters in Winnetka operates on the assumption that swimming is 10% learning to swim and 90% comfort in the water. The school's private outdoor pool is heated and shaded. Lessons options range from Baby & Me to older kids to special needs. Private lessons take place in three week cycles and meet three times per week ($320 for 9 lessons plus a seasonal registration fee of $20).
Originally published August 7, 2011