Just 'pottering around, honing their craft' in their little corner of the world has resulted in four awards at the Swim Coaches and Teachers of New Zealand Association awards for Kapiti Learn to Swim.

Following the association's diamond jubilee conference, the team from Kapiti Learn to Swim attended the annual awards ceremony at James Cook Hotel in Wellington, sweeping away the whole competition.

Taking four out of the five awards, the school, spearheaded by mother and daughter duo Mandi and Jacqui McKenzie, were surprised but very proud to win.

"We are feeling very proud," Mandi said.


"We always thought it would be nice to win, but whether we win or not it's just wonderful to be recognised."

Entering all five categories at the awards, "even just winning one would have been great".

"It's a real achievement."

Jacqui and Mandi McKenzie at the awards night.
Jacqui and Mandi McKenzie at the awards night.

Kapiti Learn to Swim won the 2019 Outstanding Swim School (1-1000 Clients), Mandi was awarded the 2019 Master Teacher award, Jacqui won the Swim Teacher of the Year award and the school was awarded the Swim School Innovation Award (0-1000 Clients).

Feeling slightly isolated, tucked away from other swim schools, attending the nationwide conference is an annual event for Kapiti Learn to Swim.

"Going into a conference with like-minded people where all the people in the room are movers and shakers in the industry, it's really fantastic to be acknowledged and recognised."

"You don't do stuff for recognition otherwise you wouldn't last," Jacqui said.

"You do it from your heart, because you really enjoy what you do.


"To know that we're right up there with the best, and better than, is a really good feeling."

"You're always striving to be better, to up skill, to make your operation and your teaching better, and to just keep learning," Mandi said.

"To be acknowledged on this platform is really quite special, especially for all the staff, it's wonderful."

The school was started in 1994 by Mandi who had a vision to deliver high-quality swimming lessons to ensure a safer community.

Twenty-five years later the swim school is still going and stronger than ever.

Winning the Swim School Innovation Award for their creative marketing and promotions, the swim school has shown they can manage a business as well as in the pool.


"It's about different ways you can promote the business.

"Our first goal is about exposure of the water safety message, second to getting bookings."

Going around preschools and kindergartens, running water safety programmes and giving out free swimming lessons, the award is about running an innovative business.

"We've been giving out free swimming lessons to give people a taste of the basics, even if they can't afford us.

"It's about giving back to the community but also a PR move to get our name out there in the community.

"It's a really nice feeling to know what we're doing is having an impact."


After many years in the community, Mandi is now onto teaching her second generation of students.

Working with her daughter too has its challenges.

"We have to be resilient and hard to offend.

"I think if you've got high standards it's a positive thing (working with family) rather than a detrimental thing."

"As you get older you tend to get concrete in your thinking, so working together and being nudged by Jacqui into new things has been good."

"We complement each other," Jacqui adds.


"It's not just a job where we clock watch and leave, it's something we're passionate about.

"Everyone's got their niche and ours is swim teaching.

"To be recognised in this way on a wider platform for our commitment to serving our community is the highest honour we could receive."