Swimming

Lifeguards Quinlin Taylor, left, and Katie Mallet
Michael Minasi for KUT

Many Austin pools close this weekend, ahead of school re-opening next week. But there are still a few more days to get in a swim at your neighborhood pool. And while you're there, maybe you'll hear what Madeline Fening hears when it's time for people to get out of the pool for a five-minute break:

Christopher Connelly/KERA

Texas regularly leads the nation in drowning deaths, and this year is shaping up to be no different. At least 122 people have died from drowning in Texas this year, according to statistics kept by Swimming USA, and most of those deaths have happened since May 1.

Because the heat came early this year and scorching temperatures are setting new records, Texans have been flocking to pools, lakes and rivers for relief all summer. And there are many more blisteringly hot days to come.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Paul Slutes is accustomed to less-than-enthusiastic welcomes.

At times, this often resembles a recent scene at Balcones Pool: Despondent swimmers greet him, seated on the concrete with their knees to their chins. Forty minutes earlier, a lifeguard closed the pool because of low chlorine levels. That’s why Slutes is here.

We're ready for the next voting round in our ATXplained project, where we collect questions from our audience, put them to a vote and then investigate the winning question.

This time, as we enter the hottest months of the year, we're putting three lake-related questions head-to-head. 

Here are the candidates:

  • What happened to Austin's "Aqua Fest"? Why did it stop?
  • What effort went into taming the Colorado River into the Highland Lakes?
  • Why is Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis clothing optional?

Use the form below to cast your vote!

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

The City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department will present the latest version of its Aquatics Master Plan to the public in two meetings this week.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Mary Blackstock has no idea when she learned how to swim. In fact, the Louisiana native says she doesn't remember "ever not knowing how to swim."

Blackstock, 88, was born in between the great wars. Her father was a dentist, her mother, a stay-at-home mom. She says her mother couldn't swim and was afraid of the water. But her father's family owned a paddle-boat. They transported sugar cane and cattle to New Orleans. The family home was on a hill at Babylon Bayou, and that's where Mary Blackstock and her siblings would swim every evening — but only when her father was home from work. He was the one who would throw the kids in the water.

Swimming, Blackstock says, changed her life.

Joy Diaz/KUT News

Most drownings are among those "preventable" tragedies. And yet, not everyone knows which precautions to take to prevent such accidents. In Texas alone, 73 kids died last year in the water. And adults are just as vulnerable. So, here are 3 tips to make your water gatherings more enjoyable.