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When it comes to learning to swim, kids generally fall into a few camps: fearless fish, trepid toddler, and claw-bearing cat. La Petite Baleen swim school has perfected the formula for teaching everyone this important life skill with a focus on movement, consistency, compassion, and fun.
What started as an experiment in 1979 by two elementary school teachers in a backyard pool is now a highly respected aquatic program with four busy locations, including one at the Presidio. In 2009, La Petite Baleen converted a historic Crissy Field warehouse that once served as an airplane maintenance shop into a light-filled facility designed for young swimmers. The steel roof trusses remain, but other remnants of the building's industrial past have been replaced by two toasty 90-degree pools, spacious changing rooms, and a poolside and a glass-walled viewing area for anxious parents.
Once you step inside, there's no doubt this business was built with kids in mind. Questions are directed to the "swimformation" staff. Teacher accolades are called "Whale dones!" Adorable terminology and spouting whale mascot aside, La Petite Baleen is in the serious business of helping kids stay safe in the water. Under the guidance of teachers who receive extensive training, students progress through each level, perfecting skills and earning stickers and ribbons — and the pride they confer — are tracked along the way. That focus on safety extends to pool maintenance, as well. La Petite Baleen uses a UV machine for pool water purification, a process that kills 100 percent of living micro-organisms, reducing the amount of chlorine needed for sanitation.
La Petite Baleen offers group, private, and semi-private lessons. Once enrolled, students can take advantage of family swim for working on skills between lessons; non-enrolled siblings are welcome to join for a fee. Suits, swim diapers, goggles and fins are sold onsite.
La Petit Baleen is located in the heart of Crissy Field, right behind Roaring Mouse Cycles. Paid parking is available nearby, but can be challenging to find on weekends. The MUNI 30 stops nearby at the Sports Basement parking lot.