Ask Lisa Tuara, mother of three children, why she decided to send her family to swimming lessons and she can trace the decision back to one definitive moment last summer.

“We were swimming at a beach up north last Christmas and a large wave came in and bowled one of the kids over.”

Lisa says what followed was a stressful few minutes that felt like hours for the family.

“The kids struggled to correct themselves and find their feet, and it became really apparent at that point the importance of knowing how to swim.”

In 2016 there were 21 preventable drownings at New Zealand beaches. The sobering statistic is the highest it has been in recent years, and hints at the hidden dangers along our coastlines and the need for water safety skills across the population.

Lisa, who originally hails from Northland’s Cape Reinga, her husband Dayton and their three children, Wiri (3), Jaden (10) and Tengaire (12) regularly spend time at the beach, but no one in the family has ever formally learnt to swim.

The opportunity for lessons soon arose when Lisa entered a YMCA Auckland competition on radio station MoreFM in February. As one of five competition winners, Lisa received a family membership to the Onehunga War Memorial Pool and Leisure Centre managed by YMCA.

Lisa says entering the competition was also prompted by her own health goals: “I’m really conscious of the fact that I need to get healthier for my family. I’ve got three children and I want to be around for them.”

Through their membership the Tuara family received two terms of swimming lessons for Dayton and their three kids, and gym memberships for Lisa, Dayton and her father.

Four months on and the results speak for themselves. Lisa has lost weight, her three kids have become more confident in and around the water and her husband has learnt to swim.

“Prior to the lessons my husband Dayton was unable to tread water. Now when we come to the pool he’s off and trying to do different things like freestyle.

“He had no idea how to do all that before he started his lessons. I can’t imagine what else he’s going to learn as we go along.”

Dayton’s progress is also setting an example for young Wiri who is following in his father’s footsteps and can now confidently put his head under water. And for Lisa’s two daughters, Jaden and Tengaire, the swimming lessons have been invaluable in teaching them new skills.

“At first I didn’t want to go to the lessons because I thought I could already swim, but then I started learning all these things and realised I couldn’t swim,” Tengaire says.

The whole family is now confident their next trip to the beach will be a relaxing one thanks to their newfound skills. Lisa says anyone thinking about swimming lessons for their family should go ahead.

“It’s really amazing. I keep telling people, whenever I meet people – do you do swimming lessons? You should do it.”