'Water skills are life skills'

Last updated 10:00 06/01/2014
Swimming baby
WATER SAFETY: Swimming lessons are important for Kiwi kids.

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How can we improve water safety in NZ?

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Being able to swim should be seen as a core life skill, a bit like being able to drive.

When I was a kid, swimming was a core part of the school curriculum. 

I lived in a West Coast town with few leisure facilities and wild beaches. During summer, we were either surfing or hanging out at the local outdoor pool. I can't remember if our parents taught us, or if it was via local folklore, but my friends and I knew how to spot a rip from quite an early age. 

My kids, now teenagers, were lucky to have access to a school pool when growing up in Wellington. They got a few lessons during school time and I signed them up for an after-school swim school for a few years as well.

But there is only so much you can learn in a pool that could almost fit into your garage, and there are so many more things to do in the city, away from the beach.

Things may have since changed, but a few years back I couldn't find anyone who provided lessons for school-aged kids or teens. The city pools only offered classes for pre-schoolers and for adults. Local pool staff told me that there was little demand for "refresher" or "intermediate" lessons, particularly for pre-teens and teens.

Because I was concerned that my kids were still not strong swimmers, I enrolled them into adult beginner classes. I then had to bribe them to go to counter the embarrassment factor. But hey, it worked, and they can now swim pretty well.

It's a no-brainer that water safety skills are developed when one has access to water and to effective instruction. The barriers to that will be different for different people.

I'm glad I made knowing how to swim a priority for my family.

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