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One of the most hated classes ever to come to Georgia Tech was Drownproofing. It was a class thought up by Professor Fred R. Lanoue of Georgia Tech. Mr. Lanoue has said of the program "Anyone who uses the water for either recreation or work owes it to himself and his family to learn to protect himself in the water ...What we're trying to accomplish is a change from fear of the water to respect for the water..." [1]


Professor Fred R. Lanoue

As the Georgia Tech swimming coach, Professor Fred R. Lanoue saw that there was a need for a new swimming program to be implemented. Mr. Lanoue approached the planning of a new swimming program from an engineering stand point and centered it around the 3 basic objectives of swimming: staying afloat, how to swim towards shore, and how to overcome obstacles. His ultimate solution to this problem was drownproofing, which became a revolutionary swimming method. Drownproofing can be described as "the most unattractive possible swimming method", but it can certainly save lives. [2] As a prerequisite to graduate from Georgia Tech, all students had to take Mr. Lanoue's class to be drownproofed. Failure to pass the test would lead to a late graduation. In the course of time that this program was implemented, some 15,000 students were drownproofed.

The Method


The method for drownproofing consisted of floating face down for 10 second intervals and bobbing up for 2 seconds worth of breathing air. Most people want to keep their head above water, but this method shows that if a person keeps their head in the water, it reduces the above surface weight from around 15 to 3 pounds. This weight difference saves necessary and important energy needed if one were stranded in the water. Another way to take care of the weight problem is using a sideways movement to bob the head out of the water to get a breath of air expelling less energy. In an experiment, 60 poor swimmers participated in being drownproofed. A third of them had their wrists tied behind their backs and another third had their legs tied. Using the drownproofing method the average quitting time in the water was 4 hours and 40 minutes. Also, 16 of the 60 swimmers reached a maximum of 8 hours of time in the water. This experiment proved that even poor swimmers, using this method, could survive a long time in the water. It also proved that cramps and rough waters could be overcome by teaching students to swim with 2 or more of their limbs tied up. Mr. Lanoue has often said that from all his experience in drownproofing, even people who could not stay afloat for 10 minutes could stay afloat for hours with his program.

Ramblin' Wrecks are Drownproofed

As it has been stated before, Georgia Tech thought so much of the program that they required each student to pass the 22 hour course before graduation. It should be noted that an average of 3 diplomas were held up each year until the swimming credits were fulfilled. Around Tech's campus, the upperclassmen would often joke around with the freshmen saying "you just wait until that baldheaded swimming instructor [Mr. Lanoue] ties you up and throws you into the deep end of the pool." The last time Georgia Tech required the course was the summer of 1987. However, the Navy has adopted a part of the drownproofing technique in its training.


  1. Lanoue 'Drownproofs' 15,000 Techmen by Rob Willimon In Archives of Georgia Institute of Technology . Retrieved November 14, 2010 DrownProofing GTA Subject File
  2. Lanoue 'Drownproofs' 15,000 Techmen by Rob Willimon In Archives of Georgia Institute of Technology . Retrieved November 14, 2010 DrownProofing GTA Subject File
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