Canyon Swim School

El Sobrante, CA
Ages: 
All Ages

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Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante.  We live in Berkeley and it's a trek for a 30 minute lesson, but we found it worthwhile.  Depending on the route, we can normally make it in about 20 minutes.  Both my children were extremely fearful of the water.  My husband and I also love being in the water, and were kicking ourselves for not being more consistent about exposing them to it at an early age.  They loved being the water...as long as their faces/eyes didn't get wet!  Even baths required making sure their eyes were dry.  One of my children is very cautious, and hesitant to try anything new or that be perceives as high-risk (usually means something he doesn't know how to do).  Numerous other parents suggested Canyon Swim School and initially, I was a bit doubtful because Canyon suggested group lessons before discussing the possibility or private lessons.  To my amazement, group lessons were great. They have mostly high school kids teaching lessons, which I think the kids enjoyed more than working with an adult.  I was surprised that the group aspect was actually fun and relaxing for them than one-on-one.  They don't pressure the kids and start with things like, games and blowing bubbles in the water.  30 minutes is actually the perfect amount of time - just enough time to work on a few skills in a fun way but not long enough that they start to get bored or drag their feet about going to lessons.  A bonus is the heated pool.  No more complaining about being too cold in the pool!  I can't say that my kids have turned into water loving fishes but they are definitely progressing (very slowly).  And for me, that's fine.  As long as they are progressing and having a positive experience with learning to swim, I'm happy.  We spent all last summer repeatedly taking Beginner 1.  This summer is all about Beginner 2. Some kids breeze through the levels, mine repeat them at least 3 times.  And it's fine, no one at the school blinks an eye or makes my child feel like a failure.  While there are a lot of teachers at Canyon, their methods are fairly consistent.  We have yet to repeat an instructor and from watching lessons, the instructors are all well trained and consciously try to keep the experience positive for the child.  The downsides are that Canyon only offers lessons during the summertime and they fill up quickly.  The office tries to schedule sibling classes at the same time or back-to-back if possible, which I appreciate.  The parking can be a headache, and I've learned that timing is key because there are consistent waves of cars leaving/arriving to park as lessons are finished.  You can always find parking along San Pablo Dam road, but it's a farther and sometimes a bit hair-raising walk along the road because cars zip by quickly.  I'd suggest purchasing a well fitting pair of googles for them after lessons have started, this helped our kids get over putting their heads under water.  Good luck!  

My son was terrified of getting his face wet, let alone putting his head underwater. We had amazing results doing private lessons at Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante. He learned to swim the first summer of lessons, and he is now (after a few summers of swimming lessons there) a great swimmer.

It's a bit of a drive, but Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante is excellent and offers weekend lessons.  They also offer evening lessons during the week for working parents.  They are pretty pricey, but totally worth it.  Check them out!

RE: Toddler swimming in Berkeley? ()

I can't recommend Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante highly enough. They work with kids of all ages, their pool is *warm*, the teachers are trained and experienced adults, they have a method that works, each level builds on prior classes, classes are small (if I remember correctly there are 3 to 5 per class). Both my kids learned to swim there after tries at several closer places. It's about a 20 minute drive, at San Pablo Dam Road and Appian way, but *well worth it.* I believe they offer classes only in the summer though, maybe April - September. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews



    For more reviews, see Swim Lessons for Preschool and School Aged Kids and Swim Lessons for Babies & Toddlers


    July 2011

    When we arrived at Canyon Pool, no adult greeted us, introduced themselves, or even showed us where the bathrooms were. No one told us we needed to shower first or where. The kids line up at a cyclone fence that parents are not invited beyond. My four year old girl walked herself in, sat on a bench alone and waited for almost 10 minutes to be called into the pool by someone she had not yet met. We signed up for two weeks but stopped going after the third day. (No refund.)

    Your normal kid will have no problem with any of this, but my four year old girl needed just a little more warmth and human connection. The office didn't reply to my concerns and I was not able to reach the teacher (who seemed very nice and capable) behind the cyclone fence. My daughter didn't get the care she needed, no one took charge, no one checked in with me unless I called on the phone.

    This was NOT a good debut swimming experience for us. mother of a 4 year old


    Jan 2011

    Re: Swimming Lessons for Scaredy Cats
    Hi, My daughter learned to swim at Canyon swim school in El Sobrante when she just turned 5. She was scared of water too. I chose this place because the water is warm and comfortable, the teachers are in the pool with the students, and the ratio of teacher student is great 1:4. I think they can help adults too, but do not know for sure. The pool is seasonal. You can find out more by reading BPN archives and visiting their web site. Good luck! fan of Canyon swim school


    June 2010

    Re: Swim clinic for older kids, not a swim team?
    my kids take lessons at Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante. after two summers, my son is a competent swimmer and my daughter is almost there. It is lessons, though, not play time. if you want free swim time, check out The Plunge in Point Richmond, scheduled to open in August, I think. swimmy


    June 2010

    Re: Swim lessons for 16 y.o. almost-beginner
    You need to try Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante. It is probably a hike from where you live, but they are THE BEST! We commuted from Rockridge daily for the past two summers. A 16-yr old would definitely want to be in an adult class. They have them at Canyon. My extremely-resistant children have all learned to swim there. One huge draw (in addition to the excellent instruction) is the VERY warm water! Canyon Swim School is the best


    Jan 2010

    Re: Swim lessons for 4 year old
    We are a big fan of the Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante. We tried the Y, we tried the now defunct Albany pool and none of these places matched Canyon for the commitment of their instructors, their effective program, and their results. Our child has been going there for years and has excellent skills and confidence in the water. www.canyonswimschool.com KK


    Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante is the best! We tried several other places, and lessons didn't work at all. At one place I actually had to get in the water and help the instructor! Then I found Canyon. My kids took lessons there for 5 years. The teachers are experienced with kids and with swimming, and they have a method that works. They start lessons in April, I think. Their number is (510) 223-4600, website: www.canyonswimschool.com Good luck Pat


    my kids go to Canyon swim school in El Sobrante. They went to the Oakland Y once a week for a year when they were 2 and 4 years old. During that year they had fun and the 4 year old learned to put his face in the water (not his head) and to sort of steer while kicking with a kick board, the younger made no progress that was tangible. Within a month of going to canyon swim school in El Sobrante (twice a week), they were both doing things happily that they had never even tried at the Y. anon


    August 2008

    Re: Outdoor Parent-Child Swim Class for 3-year-old?
    For this question and the one about toddler swim classes, I highly recommend Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante (510-223-4600). The parking lot is on San Pablo Dam Rd, just past Appian Way. I first heard of this place ~24 years ago, from a mom who lived the other side of Montclair (from Berkeley). It is true that gas was cheaper then, but the warm water, small classes, and high quality of the teachers can't be beat. My kids are now 18-29, but I have taken other kids here more recently (as well as to other swim classes) as an occasional summer nanny - this still gets my vote as the best place for your kid to learn to love swimming and become proficient at it. The youngest class is for baby and mom, and the classes progress up through competitive swim techniques like flip turns, etc. The classes usually have about 4 kids per teacher. What I found to be a real plus was that if a child was afraid to try something, rather than ignore the child, or make the other 3 wait for ! eons, an extra teacher came out of the office to help with the child that was anxious. Anxious child was happy, other kids weren't frustrated - great all the way around. teachergran


    May 2008

    Re: Swim classes for 14-y-o who hasn't learned to swim
    Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante does private lessons. They also do adult beginners. The teachers there are so nice and effective. There is no judgement, no nastiness. One thing, though, it is a small pool and the kids who take lessons tend to be younger than 14. But I think you would find the age issue pretty much anywhere. I really think Canyon has a very effective program and great teachers. It would be totally worth it to give them a call and ask what they think. I would suggest you call and ask for Julie... she is usually there between 4 and 7 pm, and she is really helpful, honest and knowledgeable about their program. They have a website www.canyonswimschool.com. Good luck. Mom of another late swimmer


    April 2008

    Re: Private swim lesson for 4 year old
    The best place I have taken my kids for swimming lessons is, hands down, Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante. They do offer private lessons. My kids were absolutely freaked by the water, hated swimming lessons everywhere else. Within 4 weeks, my then-6-yr old son went from puking on his first day he was so scared, to swimming across the pool unassisted in a clearly-recognizable crawl stroke. They are not a ''tough love'' type of teaching place... it is all about what the kid is ready for and willing to do. They are the BEST! Their website is canyonswimschool.com. I am so sold on them that I commute from Oakland to El Sobrante. Happy swimming! Canyon Rocks!


    Yes, I have to agree Canyon School is a great place. Their program is great for all ages and children learn fast and have fun. Each teacher understands and approaches each child carefully and meets child needs without pushing to hard. Several years ago I worked for them as swim instructor and had a lot of successful stories. Now I am thinking to take my own 20 month old for lessons. They do offer private lessons they are 20 min long and they have very nice make up policy. You're also might consider group lessons because this is where children strive and do a lot better after a couple private lessons. Children love to learn by example and be in the group. Instructors are always dedicate equal amount of time for each child. Brown family who runs this program have experience for over 70 years so everything is very well structured. lola


    Feb 2006

    re: Lessons for teen who fears water
    My son took lessons at Canyon Swim School in El Sobrante last summer. You didn't say specifically that you were looking for lessons for your daughter, but I mention this pool because there were several non-swimming teens there getting lessons, as well as adults, and since almost everybody else milling around the place was relatively young, the chances of being spotted by friends would be small. Also, I was pleased to find that the drive there was only about 10 minutes from our Albany house. MF


    My son David went to Canyon Swim School for two summers, when he was 4.5 and 5.5. I can't say enough good things about it---it was wonderful! It's warm, and the teachers really enjoyed my son (who has *tons* of energy), and he enjoyed them. He was not at all afraid of the water, and they took him in and taught him to swim. I was particularly looking for a place where the class for 4 year olds was not spend two weeks feeling comfortable getting your face in the water. That would have bored my son to tears. At Canyon they really work with the kids individually. Another great thing is that unlike some other places, Strawberry Canyon for instance, the kids can touch the bottom when they are in the water. At SCRA, they have to hang on the sides while they are waiting for their turn. And SCRA is freezing! It was a 25 minute drive each way for us, but it was well worth it. Lindsay


    In a word (or three) WE LOVE IT. My now 4 year old took lessons last year from spring to fall and we plan on returning this April with his 2 year old sister taking lessons too. We tried other pools but this was the only place that really worked at his pace even though there were others in the group. In a few short months he went from hanging onto the edge in the shallow end to jumping into the deep end. Their goal is always...safety first.Plus he had fun. It works for us....good luck. CorViele


    Last year my daughter 31/2 at the time took classes at Canyon. The teachers are fantastic. All the kids got the attention they needed. While they waited their turn at the edge of the pool there was another adult there having fun with the kids. The water is warm and the weather is real swim weather, unlike Berkeley in June. My girl was swimming across the width of the pool by the end of the summer. Teal