A ballerina, a gymnast and a self-proclaimed girlie-girl took the leap into unknown waters together.
They were among a dozen girls between ages 6 and 12 who were invited for a free synchronized swimming lesson at Southwest Pool in Largo May 15, before Suncoast WaterWorks swim team held "Sea, Sand, Synchro: A Synchronized Swimming Summer Spectacular.''
Girls like Maria Avelina Bardo, 7, jumped in the pool to learn moves like the eggbeater (a way to tread water) and the back layout (when the body floats straight and rigid) for the first time.
"I knew I'd like the swimming part of it, but I didn't think I could do things like the layout,'' said Maria, a second-grader at St. John Vianney Catholic School. "I didn't think I could stay straight in the water, but I did it, and now I want to do it again.''
Maria was invited to the event by Dana Villamagna, and her daughter, Elena, 8, who is finishing her first season as a member of the synchro club.
"I know Elena loves it because she loves to swim but also she's a glitter-type of girl. She likes that aspect of it,'' Villamagna said.
After the free lesson, the visitors sat in the bleachers to watch the two-hour show. They watched solo performers, duets and trios perform routines with titles like "Jai Ho," "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Mambo."
For Kelsey Robbins, it was the first time she saw a live synchronized swimming show. The St. Petersburg resident came to the event with her mother, Ginny Robbins.
"I just want to know how they keep those crown thingies in their hair while they swim,'' said the 9-year-old. "It's very glamorous.''
Synchronized swimming, often described as water ballet, became an official Olympic sport in 1984.
Locally, Suncoast WaterWorks, Pinellas County's only synchronized swim club, started in 1985. It is made up of about 40 swimmers between 8 and 18 years old. The group practices three days a week, from August through May at Southwest Recreation Complex in Largo. They travel to competitions in Florida, Texas and Georgia.
Families spend between $50 to $135 each month, depending on how involved they want to be, said David Cooke, president of the board of directors for Suncoast WaterWorks.
He and his wife Robinne Cooke have had their 15-year-old daughter, Sarah, enrolled in Suncoast WaterWorks for nine years. Their oldest daughter, Meredith, 25, also went through the program.
"We found that it has given our daughters an opportunity to know a good sport and because the other teammates rely on each girl to do a routine correctly, it instills loyalty and commitment,'' David Cooke said.
Steve Kossoff, on hand to watch his daughter, Lilly, perform, wore a T-shirt with the words, "Synchro Dad," across the front. This is the third year Lilly, a sixth-grader at Pinellas County Jewish Day School, has been with the club.
Kossoff doesn't think the sport takes any more time or money than other sports.
"Lilly does synchro because she loves it. And at the same time, it's made my daughter more disciplined,'' he said. "She's found a sport that is in her heart.''