35 sign up for 500 Sails’ free swimming lessons

Posted on Jan 23 2020

500 Sails’ Gamsun Project started its free swimming lessons last Friday in the waters off Guma Sakman in Susupe. (Contributed Photo)


A total of 35 have signed up for 500 Sails’ Gamsun Project that provides free swim classes for all school age youth.

The non-profit organization’s co-founder Emma Perez said aside from the 35 registrants, seven high school lifeguards/teachers also showed up during the first day of free swimming lessons held last Friday, Jan. 17.

“Almost all the registrants were first-timers with about half from higher grades. It went great! We were all very happy to be in the water with the youth again,” she said in email to Saipan Tribune.

500 Sails launched its Gamsun Project because it believes swimming as equally important when you are starting a seafaring program on the islands.

“As 500 Sails works toward cultural revival, swimming is an essential component. It’s also a life skill that can help better our community’s health both physically and mentally. Getting the youth in the water is key. All of our group classes are free to make them as accessible as possible,” she said.

Perez said the importance of learning how to swim also comes from her and her husband’s own experience.

“Both Pete and I started swimming seriously when we were 40. In fact, we started swimming to be healthier and then got the crazy idea that we could swim the English Channel as a fundraiser to build a Chamorro canoe.”

The Chamorro Flying Proa Relay Team, an all-Chamorro, all-family, six-member team, successfully completed that 22-mile crossing in 13 hours and 10 minutes and the sakman (large Chamorro canoe) that was built by master carpenter Mario Borja in San Diego was the 47-foot Che’lu that is now part of the 500 Sails’ fleet.

Gamsun Project’s free swim classes take place during Public School System half-day Fridays that coincide with higher tides. There are two more classes this semester, on Feb. 7 and 28, from 2pm to 4pm at the Guma Sakman in Susupe. Time includes structured class and free time.

Certified high school lifeguards and teacher assistants are joined by 500 Sails’ volunteers to oversee the program. Spaces are still available. Email info@500sails.org for more information.

500 Sails has participated as an employer for the PSS Co-Op Program for three semesters. Youth get the opportunity to learn hands-on how to assist in building a traditional Chamorro canoe using modern materials. In addition, they are introduced to sailing these canoes themselves. Interested youth should contact their schools.

For more information: email info@500sails.org, visit website at http://www.500sails.org, follow 500 Sails at https://www.facebook.com/500SailsDolphinClubSaipan, or call Emma Perez at 670-285-4268.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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