When Behzad arrived in Adelaide from a landlocked part of Iran six years ago, swimming for pleasure was out of the question. “When I arrived here, I didn’t know anything about swimming or water safety. I pretty much didn’t have any knowledge,” he said.
Now, the Iranian-born South Australian has completed his Bronze Medallion and is leading water safety classes for Surf Life Saving South Australia, including the Sea Sure Swim School.
The program caters to new migrants who need the basic water safety skills required to enjoy nearby patrolled beaches - including Behzad’s home club at Henley Beach.
“What we do is break down every task to them,” Behzad said. “We focus on how to float, and teach students how to control their brain, and how to be confident enough to lie down in the water if they get into trouble,” he said.
The 2019 program experienced a 90 per cent increase to enrolments this year, with participants focusing on basic skills, as well as what to do if they’re ever in trouble. Henley Beach Surf Life Saving Club captain Peter Oborn says that the increase in community skills couldn’t come at a better time.
“We’re near the western suburbs of Adelaide, where we’ve had significant population growth and migrant arrivals, so that’s resulted in an increase in beachgoers without surf skills,” he said. “From a national perspective, Henley is quite a safe beach without big rips or steep gradients. It’s a very safe looking beach too, so it’s quite deceptive.”
With an increase in incidents involving people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in the area, Behzad says it’s vital for beachgoers to rethink how they react to dangerous situations.
“A big part of the program is helping people to understand that they can be their own worst enemy when they think they are drowning,” he said.
“If you think you’re going down, you’re far more likely to drown no matter how well you swim, but if you stay relaxed, you float, and you think, you can save yourself.”
The importance of generous donor support for community programs like the Sea Sure Swim School is not lost on Behzad.
“Our supporters save lives by helping to fund swim school, because the program teaches students how to avoid dangerous situations, as well as what to do if they need help.”