Founder of Aqua Marine

For Danielle Gál opening a swimming academy wasn’t only a stroke of genius, it’s the realisation of a life-long dream.

A self-described water baby, Danielle developed a passion for swimming at an early age. “I always loved being in the water and remember hating having to wait for ‘spring to arrive’ so that I could get back into the pool,” she says.

Like a fish to water

First introduced to the water at six months old and taught to swim by her parents the ‘old school’ way. “From 18 months I was apparently like a fish,” explains Danielle. “I was taught at home in a pool. My mom and dad just let go of me and let me go for it!”

Not content to just splash about at home she took her love for water beyond the garden gate – diving (literally) into water sports from scuba diving to captaining the South African Junior underwater hockey squad. “As a kid I wanted to be an air hostess but suffered from terrible motion sickness the first time I flew. Needless to say I quickly figured out that the only wings in my future were water wings!”

Step into my office (just don’t forget to bring a towel)

Teaching since 2005, Danielle would choose a swimming pool over an office any day.

While at varsity studying towards a degree in corporate communications, a friend suggested that Danielle do an SSA (Swimming South Africa) course as her love for water and kids could be  a great way to earn extra pocket money while studying.

Halfway through her degree she did SSA’s ‘Learn to swim’ course and has since obtained her Coaching Level 1 certificate, First Aid Level 1 certificate, PBSTA (Professional Babies Swimming Teaching Certificate) and Aqua Aerobics qualifications. She is affiliated to Swimming South Africa (SSA), the Professional Babies Swimming Teachers Association (PBSTA) and the Professional Aquatics Association of South Africa (PAASA). Needless to say, Danielle discovered her passion and traded in corporate for chlorine.

Having taught part time for a few months at nursery schools, Danielle took a full time position the end of 2005, accepting the offer to run her own swim school – Aqua Swimming Academy – and venture into the teaching business. Aqua Swimming Academy is still going strong, serving the Blairgowrie community.

Learn to swim – at any age

The most rewarding aspect of her job? Seeing the look on students faces when they get something right. “Every student is different so it makes every lesson fun,” she says with a smile. “I love the fact that when I’m in the water I get to focus solely on the kids. I get to have front row seats for each of the milestones they reach – from blowing a bubble, to getting their face wet for the first time, to getting a stroke just right.”

Danielle feels particularly privileged to have the opportunity to teach special needs children: “Wow! Teaching these kids is incredibly rewarding. While they need 150% of my attention, this doesn’t mean that they’re allowed to get away with more than anyone else. Each special needs child is dealt with in much the same manner as every other child that climbs into the pool but the way Danielle teaches them is tailored to their individual needs. “It is such an honour to see their faces when they get something right, or learn something new. Even if they will never learn to swim ‘technically correctly’ as a result of their mental or physical drawbacks, they do learn to love the water and have fun!”

Not limited to just teaching children, Aqua Marine offers babies swimming lessons, adult swimming lessons, special needs and Aqua Aerobics – and all round one-stop place to be booked in to.

“Aqua Marine Aquatics Academy is the realisation of a dream. I get to run and manage my own aquatics academy, and I get to watch children and adults respect for the water grow and develop a passion for swimming – it doesn’t get better than that.”

[detail] Fun fact: Danielle’s favourite swim stroke is backstroke. Why? “Because you get to breathe all the time!”