Supervising lifeguard Nicole Alvarado instructs swimmers during the 2016 WLSL at Splash! La Mirada, near Los Angeles.
World's Largest Swimming Lesson 2016 Supervising lifeguard Nicole Alvarado instructs swimmers during the 2016 WLSL at Splash! La Mirada, near Los Angeles.

The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson has lived up to its name. Again.

For the seventh year in a row, WLSL has inspired worldwide participation. Records were broken on June 24, when 40,298 participants at 641 host locations in 24 countries around the world jumped into pools. The number of participants was up 6 percent over 2015, and the number of host locations grew an impressive 33 percent.

This yearly event is fun to watch as hundreds of waterparks, aquatics facilities and public pools in nations around the planet hold swim lessons on the same day, all aiming to collectively break records for the biggest swim lesson in the world.

But there’s a serious, more important, reason for the event: WLSL started in 2010 to promote the message, “Swimming lessons save lives.” Drowning is the second leading cause of unintended, injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14. WLSL aims to serve as a platform to help local community aquatics facilities and the various national, regional and state water safety and drowning prevention groups work together to get the vital message out.

This year, WLSL organizers changed the rules a little to make participation easier. Hosts could pick their own starting times for the 30-minute lessons, provided they took place on June 24. They also simplified the reporting criteria.

Since its debut, the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson has consistently set Guinness World Records. In 2014, there were 36,564 participants in 22 countries. Last year, the number of participants jumped to 38,170 participants in 22 countries, though Guinness was not able to confirm that WLSL held the record. WLSL was the brainchild of Beth Root, the principal at Buzzonic, the Kansas City Mo.-based marketing strategy and integration agency she founded.