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.
At the San Clemente Gym, the bottom line is fitness, but the atmosphere is familial and unpretentious. The latest StarTrac ellipticals, stairmasters, and stationary bikes roam across the floor alongside herds of free weights, mountains of plates, and forests of barbells that together add up to more iron than a steel mill.
The instructors at Canvas, Paint and Wine, Oh My! edify budding artists in their spirited 2.5-hour workshops, which yield canvas-and-acrylic images of sunsets, cresting waves, death-metal album covers, and other pleasant images. In classes often held at Luggatti's Italian Grill, teachers help guide students' brushes across the canvas with step-by-step instruction as students imbibe wine and absorb appetizers.
On the heels of 20 years of experience, the instructors of USSD Martial Arts of San Clemente guide a wide variety of programs to students ranging from three-years-old to adult-age. The Kempto Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu programs focus on subjects such as self defense, anti abduction, stranger danger and bully prevention.
Exercise should be calming, but for many, the very act of getting to the gym is a source of stress. That’s why Megan and Bernie Wohlfarth designed OceanaFit to center entirely on giving visitors a stress-free experience. When the pair first set out to open the fitness center, they made sure to choose a building that was easy to find and had a roomy parking lot. Inside, their spacious studio keeps classes from ever being crowded, and the ample mirrors, kelly-green walls, and zen-inspired décor keep minds centered even as they focus on keeping their bodies balanced.
The team of instructors each bring a unique approach to their classes, which include a variety of yoga styles including Vinyasa, power flow, and prenatal, along with sculpting Pilates and barre sessions. The studio is also equipped to turn any yoga or Pilates class into a heated session, which helps students release toxins while pushing deeper into their postures and cooking post-workout turkey feasts at the same time.