Waiheke’s first surf life saving recruits during training at Onetangi beach with instructors from Bethells Surf Life Saving Club. Photo Liza Hamilton

Fatal drownings at beaches and coastlines around the country are on the up, with men faring the worst, according to a Surf Life Saving New Zealand report released this week.

A staggering 87 percent of drowning victims between 2010 and 2020 were male. There were 360 drownings over the same period.

“There are several ideas and assumptions around why men are drowning at much higher rates than women,” says Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNZ) chief executive Matt Williams.

“It may have to do with men underestimating risks and overestimating their abilities. It could also have to do with the fact that men might be out on the water more often doing activities like fishing or surfing.”

Adults over 15 years old account for 95 percent of all drowning fatalities, and on average, 36 people fatally drown every year on New Zealand’s coastlines. According to the Beach and Coastal Safety Report published by SLSNZ, that figure is on the increase.

The report paints a gloomy picture when it comes to water safety, and Surf Life Saving NZ, which represents 74 clubs around the country, is calling for action.

“This report is our way of drawing a line in the sand,” reads the report synopsis.

“We, Surf Life Saving New Zealand, are saying enough is enough. We are calling for greater investment in a long term, evidence-based beach and coastal safety education strategy.”

SLSNZ is a charity and, while the organisation does receive government funding towards frontline operational expenses, it doesn’t cover public safety campaigns or education.

 Sophie Boladeras

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