Swim Up Hill with Heal the Bay

Jamal Hill, Paralympic swimmer and educator based in Los Angeles, believes the next US Olympic Games champion is 5 years old right now and waiting for their first swim lesson.

To reach them, and many others, Jamal has a goal to teach one million people to swim.

His own love for swimming began at a local YMCA “Mommy & Me” swim class in Inglewood. Even back then, it was evident Jamal was a natural born swimmer.

After paralysis and recovery at age 10, his parents encouraged him to use the experience to inspire others to overcome challenges. Jamal trained and swam competitively in high school and college, and then became a professional Paralympic swimmer. He is currently ranked number one in the US Paralympic 100 Freestyle and number 22 in the world. Watch a short documentary about Jamal’s story.

Jamal’s passion for swimming extends well beyond his personal and professional goals for competing in the next Olympic Games. He also has set his sights on empowering Black and Brown youth locally and globally with water safety and swimming lessons.

The latest statistics from the World Health Organization show that 320,000 people lose their lives to drowning every year. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1-14 years in the United States.

Due to a history of systemic racism in the US, Black and Latinx children are disproportionately impacted by a lack of equitable access to pools for swimming and water safety lessons. 

“It’s reported that 64 percent of Black children have little to no swimming ability, compared to 45 percent of [Latinx] children and 40 percent of White children. Black [children] ages 5-10 are 5.5 times more likely than White [children] to drown in swimming pools. To further diversify the sport, and make it safer, it’s important to look at the long history of systematic racism that has led to the dearth of Black [people] having opportunities to swim,” writes Peggy Shinn in an article titled, “The Deep End: The History of Pool Access for Black Americans & What Team USA Athletes are Doing to Get More Kids of Color into the Pool”.

In an attempt to lower the global drowning rate and provide equitable access to water, Jamal founded Swim Up Hill (download brochure) and provides 1:1 swimming and water safety lessons. Since the COVID-19 pandemic closed many public pools for most of 2020, Jamal got creative and is offering virtual family swim and safety lessons through Airbnb

Swim up Hill with Heal the Bay on Nov. 28

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving at home this year, we have a fun family activity to do that week. Get your household together for a Creative Family Swim on Zoom with Jamal Hill and Heal the Bay at 11am on Saturday, November 28. Together, we’ll unlock basic swim and water safety skills at home without a pool! You’ll just need these supplies: (1) 10-inch bowl, (2) 5-gallon buckets, (1) bench or table that supports your body weight, (1) Note pad, and (1) Pen.

Register for the Creative Family Swim

Watch our IG Live series on Nov. 24

Tune in to Instagram Live with Jamal Hill and Kelly Kelly – Education Manager at Heal the BayDanni Washington – TV Host and Co-Founder of Big Blue & You), and Soleil Errico – World Longboard Champion for a series of conversations about equity in water safety and swimming, environmental education and advocacy, and the journey to becoming a pro water athlete. We’ll get started at 11am PT on Tuesday, November 24. Follow @swimuphill on Instagram to watch live and ask questions.