Swim to Survive

Swim to Survive

In pursuit of its mission to prevent drowning and water-related injury in Canada, the Lifesaving Society articulates and promotes its official positions on issues to improve aquatic safety across the country. In Canada’s water-rich environment, basic swimming ability is a required life skill for survival.

Lifesaving Society Position

Acquisition of basic swimming ability is a fundamental requirement in any meaningful attempt to eliminate drowning in Canada. All Canadian children deserve the chance to learn basic swimming skills.

The acquisition of basic swim survival skills by Canadian children is worthy of public and government support. Affordable training should be available for all children to the level of the Canadian Swim to Survive standard.

Swim to Survive Standard

The Canadian Swim to Survive standard is a minimum national standard of swimming skill for all children. The standard is simple, straightforward, and focused. 

It defines the essential minimum skills required to survive an unexpected fall into deep water. It is recognized that there is a wide range of aquatic training well beyond this minimum.

Swim To Survive + 

Swim to Survive+ is geared toward presenting real-life situations for children in Grade 7 building on the skills taught in Swim to Survive. The + (plus) means participants learn:

How to ROLL, TREAD and SWIM with clothes on.

How to help a friend in deep water without putting themselves in danger (TALK, REACH, THROW).

Basic physical fitness concepts through interval training and a fitness swim.

Family Swim to Survive

The Lifesaving Society has a new program for families called Family Swim to Survive. It uses the same skills and principles as Swim to Survive but is designed for adults as well as children, and allows family members to participate in the Swim to Survive program together.

The program is designed to create a comfortable learning environment for families, some of whom might be new to Canada or may have no experience with survival swimming and water safety.

Instructional Time: 

Swim to Survive programs are flexible and simple to implement and can be offered in a variety of fun ways: 

  • Swim to Survive Day: challenge the public to attempt the standard.

  • National Drowning Prevention Week activities: offer Swim to Survive evaluations for every family member during family swims.

  • Facility Swim-test: Use the Swim to Survive standard as the basic skill test for aquatic facility owners/operators in determining admission of unaccompanied children.

  • Birthday Parties: offer Swim to Survive evaluations with every birthday party booking.

  • Skill screening: Test individuals as a safety activity for school and youth group trips to waterfronts or to qualify for aquatic training such as canoe or kayak courses, canoe trips.

  • After-school programs: offer Swim to Survive evaluations to the participants of your after-school programs.

  • School Programs: The Lifesaving Society aims to have every Grade 3 and Grade 7 student in British Columbia and the Yukon achieve the Swim to Survive standard.

Evaluation and Other Items: 

Task Essential Life Skills

Roll Into Deep Water

  • Orientate oneself at the surface after an unexpected entry

Tread Water For 1 Minute

  • Support oneself at the surface to locate nearest point of safety

Swim 50 Metres

  • Swim to closest point of safety


Drowning is a leading cause of death: Drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death in Canada for people 60 years of age and under. And drowning is second only to automobile injuries as the leading cause of accidental death among children under five, according to a study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Need For Instruction

Swim skills need to be taught. Swim skills are not innate: they are acquired. Swim skills are very difficult to self-teach.