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.
With more than 30 years of kid-entertaining experience, The Little Gym provides a safe and noncompetitive environment wherein wee ones can exercise their brains and bodies. Maturing moppets aged 4 months to 3 years glean social and cognitive skills from a parent-child program that helps developing minds learn colors and numbers and helps parents learn to take turns and share. Gymnastics allows energized preschoolers and kindergarteners to tumble at their own pace and caters to differing ages, levels of muscle development, and hatred of vegetables. Grade-school gymnasts tackle the mat, bar, vault, and beam in classes divided by ability, not age, and dance classes allow the rhythmically inclined to shake and sway.
Snorkeling provides land-lubbing humans with an easy, thrilling opportunity to meet their distant marine neighbors and escape the summer heat. In one two-hour joyride, the skilled seafarers at Riviera Yacht Charters will board passengers on a gorgeous Coast Guard-certified vessel for a breezy tour of the ocean surface, leaving dazzling figure eights and calligraphy spelling out the names of famous horses in its wake. They'll then outfit each explorer in snorkeling gear in preparation for an underwater tour of coastal kelp forests, reefs, and coral sandscrapers, where a certified PADI underwater naturalist will take the time to identify the marine creatures that cross your goggled pathway. Call ahead to schedule your trip.
Situated only two blocks from historic Dana Point Harbor, Reform Pilates Studio reverberates the port's peaceful vibe with its signature, stretch-centric coursework. Group equipment classes stem from basic Pilates methods, which coalesce controlled breathing and fluid movements to fortify the core and prepare for a basic synchronized-swimming routine. The built-in resistance of the studio's Stott Pilates reformers increases intensity as well as range of motion, putting emphasis on the outer limbs that mat-bound practice often fails to incorporate.
From the shores of Big Bear Lake and Dana Point, it's not uncommon to see someone flying high above the waves. But they're not using a hang-glider or an albatross on growth hormones. They're riding one of Action Aqua Flight's flyboards, contraptions that allow their riders to shoot into the air and cut through the surf atop plumes of water. A board beneath the rider's feet thrusts them upward via two massive jets, while two arm-based streams allow the wearer to stabilize and turn. All the while, an instructor follows behind on a jet ski, supplying the board with pressurized water and relaying instructions via headset. Sessions are bookended by calming cruises aboard a pontoon boat, and riders can opt to have their flights recorded for posterity.