Surf Lifesaving NZ: Stats show majority of drownings are male

The majority of Kiwis who die from drowning are male, new figures from Surf Lifesaving NZ (SLSNZ) reveal.

On average, 36 people fatally drown on New Zealand coastlines each year, according to SLSNZ's safety report published Monday.

Surf Lifesaving NZ CEO Paul Dalton says the figure is on the increase.

"The stats, certainly over the last five years are showing the trends are getting worse compared to the five years previous so we've still got a big job to do," he told The AM Show on Monday.

The majority of victims - 87 percent - are male.

"That's a clear factor that as a sex, we are underestimating risk and overestimating our ability in a massive way," Dalton said.

"And it's not just swimming, it's actually on many things... but we'll focus on swimming at this stage," AM Show host Duncan Garner said.

The greatest risk activity has been swimming (22 percent), predominantly at surf beaches.

Boating (17 percent) is also a key factor, and falling (17 percent) another.

"Things look quite benign and you can get away with bad behaviour many times but eventually that could easily catch you out," Dalton said.

A man aged in his 60s drowned at west Auckland's Piha Beach in January, despite lifeguards and emergency staffs' efforts to save him.

An Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived at the beach while CPR was in progress but the man could not be revived.

Dalton says incidents like this takes a toll on lifeguards.

"It's definitely a tough one," he said.

"I mean, it's a real personal challenge for the lifeguards involved. We have counselling systems and support behind those guys to make sure they mentally come out of it as well as they can.

"It's gutting, I mean… your job is to save people so I think if it doesn't come off, it definitely hurts."