Learn to swim with David Burns
“Yeah, apparently when I first started swimming I was terrible, but I really enjoyed it so didn’t let that put me off,” he laughs.
David, who usually works at Keith Spry pool but is at Tawa pool while it’s having major upgrade work, teaches toddlers up to teenagers how to swim.
“With the toddlers you can really see their progress as it happens so quickly, but it’s great seeing the faces on all the kids when it suddenly clicks and they finally get it – and the parents are really happy at that moment too.”
David believes swimming is really important for a number of reasons, but with such high drowning figures in this country, basic swimming skills and water safety from an early age are crucial.
Most of his time is spent on school programmes where the classes attend four days out of five to keep the momentum going.
“We want the kids to remember what they’ve learnt and to keep going, so it’s better if they come regularly – one on one you could probably learn to swim properly in a year, but in the multiple groups it takes longer as they usually need a couple of terms to advance to each level, and there are nine of those.
“The classes don’t just focus on the strokes and breathing techniques, but also life-saving and water safety where they learn about ropes, buoyancy, and how to rescue someone.”
David originally applied to be a life guard at Keith Spry, but all the positions were full so he was offered the swim instructor role for a while, learned a few things from his boss, and hasn’t looked back since.
“The main things you need to be a swim instructor are patience, the ability to motivate, confidence and knowledge about what you’re doing, but most importantly a good way with kids,” says David.
David says it’s also great because he sees his results in action as most of the children he teaches grow up and return to the pool: “Over the years most of them have come back, some for practice and some for fun, but either way I feel proud of that.”
But David has many bows to his string, as well as being a life guard and a swim instructor, he is also an occasional staff member at Nairnville Recreation Centre – but as a younger man he had one true passion.
“I’ve lived in Wellington my whole life, and the thing I loved the most was Lazerstrike in Petone, but now I’m older I’m a big fan of living in Johnsonville, because it’s not boring despite what people think – and it’s just up the road from Keith Spry pool!”
The Council-run pools have a close relationship with the local schools and community because of the on-going relationships they have, so it’s not surprising they are called on to lend their expertise to events.
“Raroa School had a competition where the students had to make rafts out of all sorts of materials, and row them out in the harbour – so we were there as life guards just in case they sunk!”
David says there are many highlights to his job including the people he works with and the friends he’s made, but the stand-out is always the young ones: “Some kids love swimming, some hate it, but the challenge is to keep them interested and having fun, and when they succeed the reaction is priceless.”
There are seven Council-run pools around Wellington: Khandallah and Thorndon outdoor pools; Karori; Tawa; Freyberg; Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre; and Keith Spry (which is due to reopen this summer following a major upgrade).