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Life’s a beach and Mahamed is loving it

Mahamed Awl learned to swim as an adult and hasn’t looked back. As told to Chelsea Roffey

I was terrified of water from a young age. Even though I was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia when I was two – surrounded by water! – I always avoided it. I was the guy who stayed on the sand when a group of us went to the beach.

When I heard Lifesaving Victoria offered a free training course where you could learn lifesaving skills, and get work from it, I thought it was a great chance to learn how to swim.

I was 20 years old when I started my six-month learn-to-swim program, and at that stage I couldn’t even do half a lap of the pool.

Eventually I realised learning to swim wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be

That first moment stepping into the water is nerve-wracking. Your instinct and body are telling you to get out of the water. It really hit me when the bottom of the pool dipped down and I knew if I stopped, there would be a potential chance of drowning. Even though there were lifesavers and instructors there, it took me a long time to get over that fear.

The first lesson was learning how to float on my back. Then we progressed to freestyle, backstroke and sidestroke. My instructor helped me practice every day and motivated me. Having someone I trusted there, beside me, really pushed me. Eventually I realised learning to swim wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

Now being in the water is a comfort – it’s a place I can go whenever I feel stressed. It’s become a big part of my life.

Learning as an adult has meant I don’t take it for granted

After learning to swim, I completed my beach safety instructor course, which enables me to teach children from multicultural communities, including kids of Somali heritage, just like me.

We teach them about swimming between the flags, not going too far out, lifesaving strategies using everyday equipment, and how to use a rescue tube. The best part is seeing their faces when they come to the beach for the first time. And making it fun for them.

Learning to swim was a great experience, and I think learning as an adult has meant I don’t take it for granted. My advice for anyone considering giving it a go would be this: don’t be scared of what’s going to happen.

For information about Lifesaving Victoria’s swimming programs, head to
Visit or contact to learn about programs for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

If you are interested in learning how to swim, or engaging in swimming activities, reach out to your local council to explore opportunities. Head here to find yours

Last updated: January 24, 2022 at: 9:29 am