People hitting the English Bay beach in Vancouver Thursday morning encountered an unusual sight: 67 red, blue and yellow swimming kickboards placed in rows and sitting upright in the sand like gravestones.
The idea behind the pro-bono campaign by Taxi Canada was to bring attention to National Drowning Prevention Week (July 16-23).
Dale Miller, branch executive director of the 100-year-old Lifesaving Society of BC, said the kickboard gravestones, which carried the message “Learn how to swim. Swim to survive,” represent the number of people who drowned in B.C. waters last year.
While the number of drowning deaths is decreasing, each summer the Society sees a spike in the number of deaths as people head for the beach, lakes and swimming pools, said Miller.
“The main message that we want to convey is that people need to be prepared when they go into the water and that could mean learning to swim or wearing a life jacket in a boat,” said Miller. “We want people to say ‘Wow I didn’t realize it was that much of a problem, maybe next time I’m out on the water I’ll think twice.’”
Miller said statistics show that 85%- 90% of all drowning deaths are males and up to 40% of deaths happen in boating incidents. The Society also released a study last year that showed new immigrants are four times as likely to be unable to swim then those born in Canada.
“Even strong swimmers can drown which is why the tombstone also states ‘Swim to survive,'” said Miller.
“I really liked that this idea reached people where it was most relevant—by the water,” said Jordan Doucette, creative director at Taxi. “We felt that it would be effective for the client and actually prevent further drowning and help people figure out what they need to do in terms of swimming lessons or increasing their knowledge of water safety.”