New Zealand's water safety record is taking a hammering this
season with numerous drownings in our still water, rivers, pools
This is in spite of the positive contribution to Beach Education
from courses run by Surf Life Saving Northern Region for thousands
of Auckland school children.
Beachlands mother Rachel (surname withheld for privacy) was
recently given the shock of her life when her two boys' water
skills were put to the test.
A mum of two boys, Sebastian age 6 and Lachlan age 10, says the
family spends quite a bit of time in the water waterskiing,
kneeboarding and swimming. However, they are very strict about one
rule on the boat: without a wetsuit and lifejacket there are no
"It made sense to enrol the boys in the Surf Life Saving
Northern Region, City Nippers programme at Maraetai in term 4
"We thought the City Nippers programme to be a natural extension
to the regular swimming lessons they have both had.
"The boys loved the course and came home each Sunday buzzing
about what they had learnt and how they could apply their new
skills to our situation both on the boat and at the
Those skills would be put to the test during a weekend outing on
Lake Tarawera when young Sebastian was knee-boarding. When he let
go of the rope he rolled upside down and as his knee strap had been
tightened too tight, he could not release from the board nor right
"Essentially, he was being held underwater," says Rachel.
"Initially, we all thought Seb was managing, but it soon became
apparent that he was not. He was struggling to keep his head up as
the board was pushing him down into the water.
"Luckily, Lachlan leapt to action first. He swam to Seb and
stabilised him as much as he could while treading water. When we
got to Seb we were able to release him and get him back to shore
which was about 15m away."
Rachel says Seb had taken in water. "I was terrified! But what
was apparent was how well the boys handled the situation. Seb kept
relatively calm, put his hand in the air when he could, and kept
trying to free himself. Lachlan's reaction was swift and confident.
He knew how to hold Seb up in the water."
Rachel says the boys were confident in the water, but their
confidence had never been tested until that weekend.
"I am sure they reacted the way they did because of the skills
and knowledge they gained from the City Nippers course," says
"I cannot thank the young leaders enough. They engaged our
boys so well, and passed on the right amount of information. Thank
You for running the City Nippers programme. We thought we were
giving our boys an opportunity; turns out, they gained skills that
helped keep our family safe."
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