9 Feb 2016

Why men are more likely to drown

10:52 am on 9 February 2016

Men drown in much higher numbers than women because they underestimate risks and overestimate their abilities, says a water safety expert.

Surf Life Saving lifeguards test out a rescue boat at Muriwai Beach, Auckland.

Surf Life Saving lifeguards test out a rescue boat at Muriwai Beach, Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

It was a deadly weekend for New Zealand's waters, with two drownings yesterday and the near drownings of several others.

There have been 15 drownings so far this year.

Auckland University Water safety expert Dr Kevin Moran told Nine to Noon not enough was being done to educate people about the inherent dangers of the places where they were swimming.

"Our focus has been primarily on teaching children to swim - and that's a tremendously important focus because that's a critical survival skill.

"But in terms of equipping youth with the knowledge base to make safe decisions about their own independent state, I don't think we are doing enough sadly."

Water Safety New Zealand is particularly concerned about males aged 15-24 getting into trouble in the water: 80 percent of those who drowned in 2015 were men.

Dr Moran said men underestimated risk and overestimated their abilities.

There were important decisions to be made by young males about their behaviours around water, he said.

"Do we teach them about rips, do we teach them about how to avoid and identify rips?

"Do we teach young adults about rivers, about currents, about deeps spots, soft banks and so on?

"The answer - in my experience - is that we don't do a very good job on teaching at the high school level 'real' water safety."

Dr Moran said there were more new migrants and tourists at New Zealand beaches, as they were places with an international reputation.

However, he said when local New Zealand knowledge about rips was compared with international visitors, they were equally as poor.

"So my suggestion is don't ask a local, ask an expert - and most New Zealand beaches do have experts; lifeguards."

Dr Moran said the most dangerous recreational activity in New Zealand, was not racing driving or mountain climbing, but rock fishing.

"Can we inform people about the risks, so that they can knowingly take that risk.

"My concern is that there are a lot people who don't understand that risk."

Find out more information about New Zealand water safety here.