Five innovators breaking down barriers to swimming.

Last updated: March 1, 2023, at 12:52 p.m. PT

Originally published: March 1, 2023, at 9:25 a.m. PT

"5 innovators who are breaking down barriers to swimming"

A Women’s History Month Message from our President & CEO

The YMCA is our nation's swim instructor, providing more than 1 million children with invaluable water safety and swimming skills every year. At the YMCA of Greater Seattle, we proudly lead efforts to remove barriers to swim equity for women, girls, and the entire family. We believe everyone should have access to – and feel comfortable in – swimming pools where they can learn life-saving water safety skills and have fun, regardless of gender identity, race, religion, socio-economic status, swim history, or the time of the month. 

Contrary to what some people may tell you, swimming is perfectly hygienic and safe while menstruating. Unfortunately, access to period products is not as easy as you might think, especially swim-friendly products. Pink taxes on necessary hygienic products impose an economic barrier. Thankfully, community leaders are trying to remove this barrier, including our very own Y staff, Jayma Erker. Jayma is trying to put an end to period poverty by creating a program with local Ys to collect and provide free period products to anyone who needs them. 

Beyond cost barriers, using a tampon while swimming doesn't work for everyone, whether for cultural or health reasons. Ruby Love is a woman-owned business led by Crystal Etienne which makes swimwear designed to be leak-proof with built-in liners that don't chafe, so a tampon isn't required. 

And when it comes to swimwear, finding an option that works for our unique needs is a vital part of feeling comfortable in the water. Thankfully, there are finally more choices than a one or two-piece suit. That's something Haily Marzullo, a queer woman, was determined to make a reality when they started Humankind to produce swimwear for everyone – including compression swim tops so that our community isn't forced to choose between swimming and the expression of their gender identity. Swim hijabs (co-designed with Mona Almadhoun, a swim instructor at Muslim Educational Trust) are also available and designed to provide support and preserve modesty without limiting mobility or weighing you down.  

Still, even with the right suit or access to hygienic products, the potential for hair damage or skin care can also discourage many of us from jumping in. Chlorine and salt water can be harmful to many hair types, especially to Black hair, which is why we teamed up last year with celebrity stylist Jamie Elmore. She covers what to do before, during, and after, as well as where to find specially made swim caps and products for Black hair in this on-demand Y Community Conversations recording. 

These solutions to reach swim equity mean ensuring barrier-free access to swimming for all while making it welcoming, comfortable, and fun. 

Want to take the plunge and learn how to swim at the Y? I did. There's no need to wait any longer. Learn more, bring the whole family, and register here


In community & gratitude, 

Loria Yeadon 

President & CEO