Why Some People Including Celebrities Can’t Swim

Swimming is a cherished activity that touches the hearts of many, evoking memories of carefree summer days and symbolizing both joy and life-saving skills.

However, statistics indicate that a huge percentage of people can’t swim! Even celebrities including Rihanna, Sandra Bullock, Carmen Electra, Eva Mendes, Will Smith, and John Legend have admitted that their swimming skills are wanting.

A blend of socioeconomic barriers, fear, and physical inabilities contribute to the common struggle of staying buoyant. Read on for further details

Why Can’t I Swim as an Adult? Common Reasons

For many, swimming seems as innate as walking. But surveys show nearly half of adults in America can’t swim well enough to save their own life.

Drowning accounts for approximately 236,000 deaths per year globally, according to the World Health Organization. The rates are highest among young children ages 1-4.

A 2019 Gallup poll conducted across 142 countries found that over half (55%) of respondents aged 15 and older reported being unable to swim unassisted.

The following are common reasons to explain these alarming statistics of swimming inabilities among different people.

Fear of Water

Being in or around water evokes intense fear and anxiety for some individuals. This fear, known as aquaphobia, significantly impacts their swimming ability and how comfortable they will be in aquatic environments.

Aquaphobia can be from various factors, such as past traumatic experiences that involve water, such as fear of drowning or losing control. These rooted fears can create a strong hatred towards water-related activities, making it challenging for them to learn to swim no matter how hard they try.

drowning swimming risk

Overcoming aquaphobia requires patience, understanding, and gradual exposure to water. Seeking professional guidance from swimming instructors or therapists specializing in anxiety disorders will be helpful. They can provide you with the necessary support and guidance to build confidence and overcome fear gradually.

You can also use techniques like relaxation exercises, gradual exposure to water, and supportive friends and family. Then take small steps, like dipping your toes and practicing controlling your breathing to relieve your fears.

Lack of Swimming Skills (Technique)

 Some people lack proper swimming techniques like floating, kicking, breathing rhythm, and arm strokes. Without these skills, staying in water for long periods will be uncomfortable and extremely tiring.

Taking swim lessons is an excellent way to acquire these fundamental skills. Practicing in shallow water can help build confidence.

Physical Limitations

Certain medical conditions, injuries, or disabilities may make swimming difficult or impossible for some people. Issues with motor function, muscle tone, age, respiratory health, or panic disorders can get in the way of swimming capabilities.

However, having physical limitations doesn’t mean you can’t swim. There are alternative swimming techniques and aids available that can help you enjoy the water safely and comfortably.

If you have difficulty moving your body, you can try adaptive swimming techniques, which involve changing how you move in the water. For instance, if you have trouble using your legs, you can focus on using your arms and upper body to move through the water instead.

Otherwise, there are special tools and equipment made for swimming that can support you. Floatation devices and buoyancy belts can keep you afloat and stay stable in or on the water. Hand paddles or swim fins can also help you move forward in the water, which can be especially useful if you have fewer muscle strength issues.

Negative Perception

Cultural beliefs, personal experience, or societal messaging may lead some to feel that swimming is an activity “not for them.” Challenging these assumptions and carving out welcoming pool environments can help shift these perceptions over time.

Other cultural or social norms can also discourage certain groups from participating in swimming. One example of such barriers is the ban on burkinis, full-body swimsuits worn by Muslim women, in public pools. In 2016, France implemented this ban, which created exclusionary practices and hindered the ability of Muslim women to enjoy swimming.

Other Concerns

Lack of opportunity or exposure: Having access to swimming facilities and being exposed to water bodies is important for learning to swim and enjoying water activities. Unfortunately, some communities don’t have enough opportunities for swimming.

Hair Concerns:  For some, hair may present a barrier to swimming if they have styles that are difficult to protect from water exposure. Tightly coiled natural hair is especially prone to damage from moisture and chlorine. Wearing a well-fitted swim cap can help.

Insufficient time: Time can be a significant limitation when learning or practicing swimming, especially for working parents. With busy schedules and numerous responsibilities, finding the time to dedicate to swimming may seem challenging. Learning to swim requires a consistent investment of time and effort.

Overcrowding and Revealing Swimwear: Some people also do not like overcrowded public pools and the discomfort that comes with the tight and revealing swimwear.

Celebrities Who Can’t Swim

It is not only average people who cannot swim, even the brightest stars have their own unique quirks and limitations.

Celebrities who can't
Some celebrities cannot swim

Surprisingly, some celebrities, including Carmen Electra,  Eva Mendes, Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, Will Smith, Miranda Lambert, and John Legend, despite their larger-than-life personas, have admitted they can’t swim. Here are details shedding light on the human side of fame.

Carmen Electra

Carmen Electra has a big fear of water. She can’t swim at all. Even with her brave face on TV shows, she still feels scared when near water.

In 2022, she explained how she relied on her dancing talents to fake her swimming skills and she ultimately got the gig.

Carmen Electra


Robyn Rihanna Fenty a Barbadian Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, businesswoman, and actress, has spoken about her fear of swimming and not being proficient in it.

This is unexpected given her island upbringing. Rihanna has shared that she feels safer in a hot tub than in the ocean.


John Legend

The multi-talented musician John Legend has revealed that he can’t swim. His confession surprised many, given his romantic ballads and water-themed songs. John has expressed a desire to learn to swim for safety reasons, especially as a parent.

 Oprah Winfrey

Despite her numerous accomplishments, in the recent past, Oprah Winfrey has admitted that she can’t swim. This might be surprising given her adventurous and diverse life experiences.

Up until 2011, Oprah could not swim because she was afraid of the water. She is reported to have signed up for swimming lessons later. She learned to swim and has encouraged others to overcome their fears and learn this valuable skill.

Donna D’Errico

Donna Jeanette D’Errico, an American actress and model can’t swim despite starring in Baywatch

“To this day, I still can’t swim. I’m terrified of water. I can’t even tread water. You get to be part of the most-watched show in the world. And there I am, knowing full well that I cannot swim,” she said in 2021.

Snoop Dogg

A famous rapper and actor, Snoop Dee Oh Double G is surprisingly one of the celebrities who can’t swim. This tidbit of information was shared in his reality show “Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood.”

Snoop Dogg

Snoop has expressed an interest in learning to swim, especially to be more involved in water activities with his family.

Even though he may not be at ease in the water, Snoop Dogg continues to make waves with his successful music career and other ventures outside of swimming pools

Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock, the famous Hollywood actress known for her roles in films like “Speed” and “The Blind Side,” surprisingly can’t swim. Despite being a talented and versatile actress, Sandra has admitted to having a fear of water.

This phobia often leads to an aversion to swimming or being near bodies of water.

Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes, a well-known actress and fashion designer, is surprisingly one of the celebrities who can’t swim. Despite her successful career in Hollywood, Mendes has openly admitted her fear of water.

She joins the list of water-resistant stars like Sandra Bullock and Rihanna who struggle with swimming. This revelation shows that even famous personalities have their own challenges when it comes to aquatic activities.

Eve Mendes

Zayn Malik

Zayn Malik, the former member of One Direction, is among the celebrities who surprisingly can’t swim. Despite his popularity and success in the music industry, Zayn openly admitted that he never learned how to swim.

Like many others on this list, he struggles with staying afloat in the water.

Will Smith

Will Smith, the highly acclaimed Hollywood actor and producer, is one of the surprising celebrities who can’t swim. Despite his incredible success in the entertainment industry, he has openly admitted his lack of swimming skills.

Will Smith
W. Smith

Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert, a popular country music singer, is one of the surprising celebrities who can’t swim. Despite her success in the music industry, she has openly admitted that she lacks swimming skills.

Although it’s unexpected for someone who spends so much time on stage and in the spotlight to struggle in the water, it goes to show that swimming abilities aren’t universal among famous personalities.

Liam Gallagher

William John Paul Gallagher, an English singer and songwriter has also openly admitted that cannot be a fish. He can only swim in wishes!

“I wish I could swim. I struggle when it goes deep and that. I start flapping around like some mad crazy salmon,” said Oasis vocalist Liam Gallagher in 2017.

Liam Gallagher

Sig Hansen

Captain Sig from Deadliest Catch told TMZ that he can’t swim, and he’s actually afraid of the ocean. Sigurd Jonny “Sig” Hansen is an American captain of the fishing vessel Northwestern.

Common Misconceptions about Swimming Abilities

Some people assume that if someone is famous, physically fit or athletic, they automatically know how to swim. However, this is not always the case.

Swimming is not innate for human beings
While some animals can swim effortlessly, humans can’t

There are numerous people including celebrities who cannot swim despite their success in other areas.

It’s important to remember that swimming is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced, regardless of one’s physical attributes or career accomplishments.

It’s crucial for everyone to understand the importance of learning how to swim and acknowledging their limitations in order to stay safe around water.

Importance of Learning How to Swim

While it may take some time to master depending on some factors, learning fundamental swimming skills important for everyone. Not only does it provide a fun and enjoyable way to stay active, but it also has numerous benefits. Swimming is a life-saving skill that can prevent drowning accidents and increase water safety awareness.

It promotes physical fitness, helps improve cardiovascular health, builds muscle strength, and enhances flexibility.

Further Reading: The Benefits of Swimming for Your Physical and Mental Health

Moreover, being able to swim opens up opportunities for various water-based activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, water sports, and even filming underwater scenes in movies.

With the right knowledge, you can enjoy all the amazing experiences that come with being in the water while avoiding the common dangers and risks associated with swimming.

To sum up, some people, including celebrities, can’t swim for various including fear of water, physical challenges, cultural barriers, lack of skills and opportunities, etc. It is important for everyone, to acknowledge their swimming abilities and be open to learning how to swim.

Learning to swim competently is an important safety skill that could save lives by reducing drowning risks. Equipping people of all ages and backgrounds with swimming skills through inclusive community initiatives promotes water safety for all.

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