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Dynamic sister duo dives into next phase of their Brave Waves Swim School 

Community ProfileDynamic sister duo dives into next phase of their Brave Waves Swim School 

Julia and Jessica Surette have always been involved in swimming and when they decided to translate that passion into starting their Brave Waves Swim School in 2011, they could hardly imagine the overwhelming support they received from the Brant County community.

“We had been competitive swimmers throughout our childhood, and we had to become lifeguards. So, we said, ‘Why don’t we do something in our backyard, we can still enjoy the great Canadian summers, but we’ll be able to work and make money for our tuition?’” said Julia. “What we were offering was needed by the community [and] we grew a reputation by word of mouth…. People liked what we were offering…I think it was that perspective on swimming that combines the competitive technique with the lifesaving lifeguard lessons that [has been] working very well.”

However, one of the key elements for the Surette’s success has been their family.

“Our parents have always been so supportive. They told us ‘If this is your dream, go for it!’ Our mother is a teacher and she just retired; she has been instrumental in shaping the pedagogy, and the leadership that we have at Brave Waves. And our father, who is a businessman, has helped us realize the things that we want to do in business structure and finance. Without them, I don’t know how we would have been successful or how we could have grown,” said Jessica.

Julia and Jessica Surette are pictured here with a cheque for the SPCA Brantford. The sisters have been very active in the community through volunteerism and donating to special causes. Photo courtesy Brave Waves Swim School.

Julia added, “Our extended family like my grandmother, our matriarch, and my aunt and uncle, have been helping us to make this dream a reality by investing in the project, which we’re thankful for…. it’s [truly] a family business.”

Along with their family, the sisters have gained tremendous support from various public leaders, and community builders as well as swim schools in Toronto, Markham, and Montreal. Furthermore, the Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre in Paris, Ontario provided the Brave Waves Swim School the opportunity to move from the family backyard into a larger pool which provided them a chance to expand their program offerings.  

Julia and Jessica Surette are pictured here during construction of their new Brave Waves swimming facility set to open in 2024. Photo courtesy Brave Waves Swim School.

Nevertheless, both sisters, in the last several years, have had a desire to grow the swim school, and one of the options was to build a dedicated swimming facility, which is set to open in 2024.

“We wanted to expand from seasonal because we wanted to be able to provide this critical life skill year-round for our community. And so that’s when we started thinking, ‘How can we get this to go year-round?’” continued Jessica. “We have been talking about what kind of experience we want to provide for the community and what kind of service that solidified our program, so going from infants and learning to swim and then developing a set of real swim skills, and then also incorporating our aquatic leadership. That’s from the Lifesaving Society where we direct kids towards those certifications [such as] …Bronze-level and the National Lifeguard, [these are the] kinds of experience we want to provide at the facility.”

Julia Surette is pictured here heading a swim class with parents and their children aged 6 months to 3 years. Photo courtesy Brave Waves Swim School.

The sisters have also been focused on strengthening their knowledge and key professional relationships by being part of multiple organizations including the Canadian Swim School Alliance and the United States Swim School Association among others, as well as, by providing more nuanced and accessible swimming options for the community.  

“We have two cousins who have autism…so it is personal and what originally inspired us to develop the neurodiverse program because our cousin needed to learn how to swim. “We have parents that come to us with children that have neurodiversities but are able to operate well in a class/group setting” [and] they can go through our traditional programming. If they do need to switch at any time, we can always talk about that, “Julia continued. “We have other families that come to us [with] children [with] other specific needs [and] that’s why we have our ‘Adapted Programming,’ and it is specifically one-on-one, which Brave Waves subsidizes. Again, we want every child to be able to learn.”

The Brave Waves Swim School marked its 10th anniversary in 2021 and has continued to grow its reputation as one of the premier swimming schools in the region. This is a group photo of the Brave Waves Team on their annual ice cream outing to Baskin Robbins. Photo courtesy Brave Waves Swim School.

As Julia and Jessica Surette gear up for the next phase of their journey, in the building of their facility and managing a year-round program, they have continued to thrive with the community’s support.

“I think what has been so inspiring and it fills our hearts with joy and warmth, is the response from our Brave Waves community…the families that come to us every summer have been so loving and generous,” said Julia. 

The new Brave Waves Swim School facility, which is currently under construction, will give Julia and Jessica Surette and their team a chance to provide swimming lessons and programs throughout the year. Photo courtesy Brave Waves Swim School.

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