At times, the atmosphere at Waterbabies Swim School is almost ethereally idyllic; clouds drift overhead as wriggling youngsters dive through hula hoops and parents cradle their infants to embark on a first float. More than 20 years ago, Wendy Gallagher developed the model for this utopic swim academy—lauded by CBS Local as having some of the Best Swim Lessons in Orange County in 2011—in a backyard pool in Capistrano Beach. She noticed how the intimate setting helped children enjoy lessons and eased the anxieties of parents watching their offspring submerge and surface as fully-grown otters. Guided by that experience, she installed modern facilities on the grounds of a quaint, 1920s white-stucco bungalow. The changing rooms feature kid-sized bathroom fixtures and, out in the backyard, a saltwater pool remains heated year-round to a balmy 92 degrees for both swim lessons and parties, staying clean via an Ozone system that instantly kills bacteria.
In Gallagher's aquatic curriculum, water safety is paramount, followed by a loving approach and the conviction that parents of infants can teach their babies how to swim. As a certified Pilates therapist, she quickly sees and corrects improper alignment, and as a mother of four, she knows how games and songs can be used to make lessons more fun and more effective. Instructors are equally sensitive as a result of training with Gallagher and are all certified in infant swimming by the United Swim School Association, a continuing-education organization. To ensure safety and personal attention, lessons max out at three students, and there are never more than two lessons occurring simultaneously in the pool.