NEW DIRECTION: Benjamin Silva never expected to pursue a career in the pool.
NEW DIRECTION: Benjamin Silva never expected to pursue a career in the pool. Christian Berechree

Meet the lifeguard who could not swim

BENJAMIN Silva had landed a dream job at the Roma Swimming Pool.

As a trainee lifeguard and swimming instructor, he would have the chance to keep fit, spend time outdoors and meet people from the community.

There was only one problem: Mr Silva couldn't swim.

"My friend told me there was a job at the pool, and I said I don't know how to swim but she told me it didn't matter," Mr Silva, 19, said.

"When I went for the job, I said 'I'm not a good swimmer', but what I actually meant is 'I don't know how to swim at all'."

Roma pool manager Stacey Robertson took a chance on Mr Silva and taught him the skills and techniques he needed to swim.

Using a combination of instructional DVDs and one-to-one training, Mr Silva quickly improved his swimming ability.

Within a year, he has gone from being a self-described non-swimmer, to a swimming instructor and qualified lifeguard.

Originally from Brazil, Mr Silva moved to Mt Isa with his mother, step-father and two brothers when he was 16.

After a year they moved to Roma, where the family has lived for two years.

Mr Silva said working as a lifeguard and swimming instructor would never have crossed his mind before moving to Australia, but he had found what he wanted to do with his life.

He said in his home country, it was not unusual for people to not learn to swim.

"In the school I went to and the city I was in, I don't remember ever going swimming," Mr Silva said.

Now, after a year of regular swimming, he cannot get enough.

"I go every time I possibly can, usually before work."

A keen sportsman, Mr Silva said he expected swimming to be easy, but soon discovered it was a lot more difficult than he anticipated.

He said training DVDs had made a lot of difference for him.

"I get an idea in my head how to do it, so when I actually go to do it, I think of the videos and I just go with the flow," Mr Silva said.

His long-term goal was to work towards offering personal training that combines land and water-based fitness.

He said he hoped all people would work learn to swim, especially children.

"For kids it's really important because it just takes a second for something really bad to happen."

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