To Face His Fears, a Father Dives Into the Deep End
“First,” he says, “we’re going to float.”
Float? Doesn’t he know I’m terrified? I’ve never been able to float; I sink in water like a bag full of barbells.
The tall, tattooed black man standing before me in his swimming pool has no patience for excuses. Our bodies, he says, are remarkably light. Our lungs are like life jackets. He lies back. Sure enough, he floats.
“Your turn,” he says.
I hesitate. The hair stands on the back of my neck. Trying to keep calm, I lie back — but the next few seconds feel like forever. Water washes over my shoulders.
My muscles tighten, my arms feel like logs and my legs meekly flutter. My face drops beneath the surface and warm, salty water streams down my mouth, which is locked open in hard effort. I twist toward the bottom.
Conrad Cooper, water still dripping from his ever-present hoop earring, neither laughs nor frowns. He and his six students — five women and me, all in our 30s and 40s — are in the shallow end of his pool in South Los Angeles. It’s a Monday evening, the first of five straight nights of lessons.
He is known as the Swim Whisperer. And he takes all comers.