Oscar Kightley is sending out his message - it's never too late to start - by taking up swimming lessons to inspire others to do the same.

The 43-year-old actor and media personality has joined forces with Water Safety New Zealand to help encourage other Kiwis to be safe in the water this summer.

Kightley, who almost drowned in his 20s, said the motivation to finally learn how to swim came from hearing of what he called the "horrific drowning toll" and the number of children who couldn't swim.

The Water Safety NZ website shows that by October 26 this year, there had been 76 drowning deaths.


"I wanted to be involved. Too many young New Zealanders are ... drowning," Kightley said.

His first lesson was at Hilton Brown Swimming in Penrose with instructor Andrew Brown.

Water Safety NZ chief executive Matt Claridge said Kightley's move might be the push needed to get Pacific Island people, especially men, to swimming lessons. The number of Pacific drownings was worryingly high - 46 in the past five years.

•Follow Kightley's blog at watersafety.org.nz/oscarkightleyswims
Drowning by numbers

*This year at October 26: 76 deaths
*This time last year: 102 deaths
*Total drownings last year: 131 deaths
*On average, 105 New Zealanders die by drowning every year