Lost at sea survivor passing on skills

By Joseph Aldridge

A group of keen boaties has learnt water safety and survival skills from renowned Kiwi survivor Rob Hewitt.

Mr Hewitt spent the weekend in Tauranga teaching a group from Te Runanga o Ngai Te Rangi during a marae-based day skippers' course.

Mr Hewitt, brother of former All Black Norm Hewitt, shot to prominence in 2006 after surviving three nights and four days drifting in the sea off the Kapiti Coast.

The former New Zealand Navy diver got lost while diving for crayfish - an experience he shared with the 15 course participants at the Ngai Te Rangi Iwi Trust building in Mount Maunganui.

"I spoke about what happened to me at sea and why I went missing because of the stupid mistakes I made trying to get too many crayfish, but also how the skills that I had allowed me to survive," he told the Bay of Plenty Times. Mr Hewitt said his course was targeted at Maori men in the 35-to-50 age group, because they featured so disproportionately in drowning statistics.

Such men often took to the sea in small boats looking to gather kaimoana for their families, he said.

Participants on the course ranged in age from fresh-faced school students through to seasoned fishermen in their 50s.

"One of the key things is skippers' responsibility and once you've done the course you can't plead ignorance. If you own the boat you've got to take responsibility for everyone on the boat.

"The other key message is wearing lifejackets. If someone doesn't want to wear a lifejacket, then they don't go."

Thanks to sponsorship from Ngai Te Rangi, and marine manufacturer Hutchwilco, all participants on the course were presented with a Hutchwilco lifejacket.



Mr Hewitt said he was living proof of the saying "if you stay afloat, you can stay alive".

During the three-day course, Mr Hewitt taught survival skills to the participants at Baywave swimming pool.

"I had a couple of non-swimmers so we went to Baywave which is a controlled environment. I showed them a couple of survival strokes and I showed them how to survive and conserve energy and keep the heat in."

Mr Hewitt got the participants to swim a couple of lengths and tread water for half an hour before showing them how to use side-strokes to conserve energy and how to huddle together for warmth and safety.

Mr Hewitt works as an ambassador for Water Safety New Zealand and New Zealand Post, the two sponsors of Kia Maanu, Kai Ora - marae-based Day Skippers' Course.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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