Swim Lessons


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Group Lesson Descriptions

Click each level to view all upcoming courses for that level on ActiveNet!

Sea Horses (Parents & Tots)

Ages 6 months & up. Parents are in the water to learn how to teach their child age-appropriate swim skills in a safe and encouraging environment. Participation in songs and games makes the experience a positive one. Children must wear disposable swim diapers and tight-fitting swim suits (2 layers of protection) if not yet toilet trained.

Barnacles (Level 1)

Ages 2 1/2 & up. Prerequisite: Comfortable in the water without a parent & able to listen and follow teacher's instruction. Skills introduced: Blowing bubbles, supported front/back floats, facial submersion and kicks. Class emphasis is on water adjustment and having fun!

Guppies (Level 2)

Ages 3 & up. Prerequisite: Barnacle graduate or capable of fully submerging face, blowing bubbles for 10 seconds two times in a row and floating and kicking on front and back with support. Skills introduced: Rhythmic breathing "bobs", jumping in, unassisted front and back floats, assisted swim on front and back with arm strokes, kicks, and breathing, and basic water safety.

Goldfish (Level 3)

Ages 3.5 & up.  Prerequisite: Guppy graduate or must be comfortable with face in the water while using arm strokes for at least 10 seconds, float unsupported on front and back for at least 5 seconds, bob with rhythmic breathing 10 times in a row, and retrieve objects in chest-deep water. Skills introduced: Rhythmic breathing "bobs", jumping in, unassisted front and back floats, assisted swim on front and back with arm strokes, kicks and breathing, and basic water safety.

Sea Turtles (Level 4)

Ages 4 & up.  Prerequisite: Goldfish graduate or capable of unassisted strokes on front using alternating arm action and breaststroke arm action with breathing for 10 yards, unassisted back stroke with alternating arm action for 10 yards, front and back glides with push offs from the wall, bobbing with rhythmic breathing 15 times. Skills introduced: Front crawl with side breathing, back crawl, elementary backstroke, breaststroke, kneeling dives, treading water,changing directions, increased swimming endurance, and basic water safety.

Sea Otters (Level 5)

Ages 5 & up.  Prerequisite: Sea Turtle graduate or capable of swimming 25 yards (1 lap) of front crawl with side breathing, backstroke at least 10 yards, elementary backstroke 25 yards, and the ability to tread water for at least 1 minute. Skills improved: Front crawl breathing technique & endurance, back crawl, elementary backstroke, treading water. Skills introduced: sidestroke, survival float, butterfly kick, open turns at wall and standing dives. 

Sea Lion (Level 6)

Prerequisite: Sea Otter graduate or capable of swimming 25 yards front crawl with side breathing, 25 yards backstroke, 10 yards elementary backstroke, breaststroke kick for 10 yards, scissor kick for 10 yards, capable of standing dives and able to tread water for at least 2 minutes. Skills improved: Front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke, side stroke, elementary backstroke, dives and treading water. Skills introduced: Butterfly, turns at the wall.

Barracudas (Level 7)

Designed to be taken multiple sessions to refine swimmers' techniques and increase endurance. Coaches lead swim workouts and skill lessons to match your swimmer's ability level. Prerequisite: Sea Lion graduate or capable of swimming 50 yards front crawl with side breathing, 50 yards back crawl, 10 yards breaststroke, 25 yards elementary backstroke, 10 yards sidestroke, dolphin kick 10 yards, and tread water for 2 minutes. Skills improved: All competitive swimming strokes and endurance. Skills introduced: Endurance swimming, competitive swimming strokes, turns and techniques, and basic lifeguarding skills.


Offered in late-spring only. For ages 8-15. Pre-Comp promotes a recreational approach to competitive  swimming. It is designed to improve and strengthen swimming skills as preparation to join a swim team, or to prepare for a Junior Lifeguard program.  Aquatic Staff Coaches will lead workouts with an emphasis on the four competitive swimming strokes, along with starting and turning techniques. A fitness component will also be emphasized. Prerequisite: A repeat Barracuda swimmer, or capable of: swimming 100 yards front crawl with side breathing, 100 yards backstroke, 25 yards breaststroke, 15 yards butterfly, and tread water for 3 minutes.


Free Level Assesments

If after reading the level descriptions you are unsure which level your child should be enrolled in, you can register for a pre-scheduled FREE swim lesson assessment. Aquatics instructors will assess children one at a time, first-come first-served. Test time 5-10 minutes per child. Free swimming level assessments are also available on a drop-in basis when the warm water pool is open for recreation swim. Please call 454-7953 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Other Swim Lesson Descriptions

Private Staff Lessons
Ages 3 and up. Taught by Simpkins Swim Center staff. The lesson participant will be given undivided attention by one of our experienced swim instructors. Lessons are 30 minutes and take place during the same session dates as group lessons, usually occuring before or after the group classes.  Individual private staff lessons cannot be re-scheduled or made-up You may cancel a private lesson only if there is an emergency situation; please call 454-7953 and/or email swimcenter@scparks.com at least 24 hours in advance of the lesson time. The class fee will be credited to your account.

Private Contractor Lessons
 Private (1:1) and Semi-Private (2:1) lessons are also offered taught by contracted instructors, each of whom has multiple years of experience teaching swimming, and one or both of the following certifications: Water Safety Certificate issued by the American Red Cross and/or a coaches’ certificate issued by U.S.A. Swimming. Private contractor lessons may be scheduled on individual dates/times and times as fit your needs. Each private instructor's teaching availability varies- please follow the link above for their most current information. 

Adult & Teen Beginner Swim Lessons (age 13+)
Offered in Summer only: Geared for non-swimmers as well as beginners, this class held in shallow water introduces students to breath control, front and back floats, and the front crawl stroke. Basic strokes and kicks are introduced to students who are able to complete the beginning skills.



Santa Cruz County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services
979 17th Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
General Information (Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.)
Phone: (831) 454-7901PRCweb@santacruzcounty.us