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"Very Strong" rip currents have been identified on Coromandel coastlines. Photo: SUPPLIED

Build confidence before diving in

A swim teacher with more than 30 years experience says staying within your ability can help people stay safe in the water this summer.
In a January 6, 2022 report, Water Safety New Zealand indicated that the preventable fatal drowning toll for the official 2021-22 holiday period was 14, a 180 per cent increase on the five-year average.
The holiday period was between December 24, 2021 to January 5, 2022, and in the years prior, the average preventable drowning death total was five per year.
There were three drowning deaths in the Waikato: two in rivers, and one at a beach.
Chris Jolly said any drowning death in New Zealand was upsetting because there was no need for it to happen.
Chris runs the Paeroa Swim School, which falls under the umbrella of Frogs Aquatics, established back in 2017.
Her most popular age-group of those learning to swim are young children between 6-14 months, but she also teaches school-aged children and adults who are beginners in water.
“People need to build up confidence just by being in water in a safe environment,” she told The Profile. “We get into trouble when we are not confident in water and head out to sea. It can even come down to the clothing you’re wearing while swimming,” she said.
“Swimming in the wrong clothing creates drag which causes more issues; you don’t want clothes that are going to fill up with water and weigh you down.”
Chris has been teaching swimming for more than 30 years, but she admits she was not a water baby herself.
Hailing from England, she said she was taught to swim with her “head out of the water”.
“I was determined that my children, who are Kiwis, were going to learn how to swim. We were living in Ngātea at the time and I rocked up to the swimming club and said I wanted to enrol my kids, and they said: ‘So, what job are you going to do?’
“So, I ended up getting onto the Learn to Swim pathway as a volunteer and got my diploma in swim teaching.”
Now, Chris’s “biggest buzz” is witnessing a child who didn’t want to put their face under the water, float for the first time.
“I get more excited than I do,” she said.
However, people needed to not only build their confidence around water, but they needed to keep within their abilities and be mindful of their environment.
“We had a swimming pool at school – it was freezing, but as kids you didn’t realise that, and I would go home and tell my mum I was floating and kicking without a board.
“She’d take me to our local beach which looked like an estuary because it’s England, and I couldn’t do it because it was the sea, it was different,” she said.
“But even if all we do is give children and adults exposure to water, they’re going to learn. If you’re happy in and on the water, you’ll go under the water, it’s just a progression.”
That was why it was so important for school pools to remain open and for education providers to encourage water safety, she said. “That way, for those kids who are never going to get swimming lessons, you’re still going to give them water confidence… and you’re still giving them skills to help them survive.”
DETAILS: Chris’s swim school is based in Paeroa at Goldfields School on Norwood Rd. For information, visit