Water activities

Water activities can be:

  • exciting and active
  • diverse and wide-ranging
  • fun for the whole family
  • enjoyed on, as well as in the water.

Keeping children safe

Always supervise children near water!

Supervision of children in, on or near water is vital for their safety. Proper supervision in and around water requires a responsible adult keeping young children in their care within sight and within reach at all times.

Before you take to the water

Swimming is healthy and fun, and swimming pools are safe and healthy environments. But there are bugs and infections in the community that can be brought into the water and spread.

It’s important that you as a swimmer do your bit to stop these bugs and infections from getting into the pool.

Help yourself and others to stay healthy in and out of the water by following a few simple steps.

Before you swim in a pool

  • If you have had diarrhoea (upset tummy) in the last 2 weeks – don’t go into the water.
  • If your child has had diarrhoea in the last 2 weeks – don’t let them go into the water.
  • Take children to the toilet before they swim and wash hands after going to the toilet.
  • Where possible shower yourself and your children before you put togs on. Use soap and warm water (especially in the area around your bottom).
  • Your baby should wear approved swimming nappies because cloth and disposable nappies are not allowed at swimming pools. Pool staff can tell you if your nappies are approved.
  • Remember to wash your hands after changing your baby.

In the swimming pool

  • If you think someone has had an accident (you see poo in the pool) tell a lifeguard. They will tell you when you can get back in the water.

Water safety on lakes, rivers, and sea

Whether you’re planning on being in, on or under water, we want you to be safe. With any outdoor pursuit, conditions can change fast. AdventureSmart has some great resources to help you stay safe.

Visit the AdventureSmart website, which provides the New Zealand public and tourists with advice and resources on how to enjoy water activities safely. AdventureSmart resources include the Water Safety Code and the Boating Safety Code.


The Water Safety Code includes four key safety messages:

  1. Be prepared.
  2. Watch out for yourself and others.
  3. Be aware of dangers.
  4. Know your limits.

The Boating Safety Code has five key boating safety messages:

  1. Lifejackets – take and wear lifejackets at all times when out on the water.
  2. Skipper responsibility – the skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone on board and for the safe operation of the boat.
  3. Communications – take two separate waterproof means of communication.
  4. Marine weather – check the forecast before going out and be prepared for changes.
  5. Avoid alcohol – alcohol affects your judgement and awareness, which are critical for safe boating

Related websites

Health benefits of water activities

If activities are done in the water they:

  • take the load off your body
  • are soothing and therapeutic
  • are low impact – your joints and muscles are under less stress when in water
  • use nearly all your body’s muscle groups (when using full swimming techniques)
  • are excellent during pregnancy – as the water supports the weight of the baby
  • are great for older people and people with health conditions, such as osteoarthritis and obesity, as the water supports your weight and keeps you cool.

Rivers, lakes and seas

Rivers, lakes and seas are an integral part of New Zealand culture, and have particular cultural significance for Māori who have a special connection to the water. Water is essential to life and identity for Māori and represents vitality. It is an area of play and amusement, a place to bathe and wash, a source of spiritual sustenance, healing, and nutrition.

Rivers, lakes and seas are a fantastic place for recreational activities, such as swimming, rafting, waka ama, hoe waka, kayaking, fishing and diving.

Physically active

Water activities can help a person to achieve the physical activity recommendations for New Zealanders. Water activities can include some or all of the four types of activity important for wellbeing and overall quality of life – aerobic, balance, flexibility and strength. It is important to choose activities that cover some or all of the activity types, particularly as we get older.


Swimming is the most popular recreational activity for males and females aged 16 to 24 years old. Swimming is in the top three activities for all other adult age categories across all ethnicities. Approximately 1.14 million (34.8%) New Zealand adults swim at least once per year (SPARC 2008).

When you begin, start slowly and speed up as your body warms up. Aim to start with one length of the pool (or equivalent in the sea), using any stroke or strokes.

Aqua fitness

An aqua fitness class is similar to a land fitness class, except you do it in water. The class should consist of warm-up, aerobic, cool-down and stretching exercises. Some classes include swimming; others just a ‘work out’ to music – try a combination of both to see which you prefer. Match the level of the classes to your fitness and confidence levels.

Aqua jogging

Aqua jogging is like running on land except you are suspended in water, using a flotation vest or belt.

Aqua jogging offers many of the benefits of running on land. More kilojoules are burned on water than on land, but without the excess fatigue. Aqua jogging also burns slightly more kilojoules than swimming.

Water sports

Many people think of water activities being confined to in the water, eg, swimming and aqua jogging, but there are a whole range of water activities that can be enjoyed on the surface of the water too.

Being an island nation, many New Zealanders have great access to the water. Water sports can range from high-adrenaline activities, such as windsurfing, kite surfing, waka ama and white water kayaking, to more leisurely activities such as sailing, sea kayaking and fishing – and everything in between.

Related websites

  • PADI – Scuba diving in New Zealand
    Find out about scuba diving and dive sites in New Zealand.
  • Whitewater NZ
    Check out the guide to rivers, find canoe and kayak clubs, and learn about river safety and conservation.
  • Waka Ama NZ
    Find out about waka ama (outrigger canoeing) clubs and events in your area.
  • Windsurfing New Zealand
    Learn about windsurfing, find a windsurfing school or club, and find out about events in your area.
  • Yachting New Zealand
    Find out about about racing and recreational yachting, events in your area and where to learn to sail.