This paper examines the practical and theoretical knowledge of New Zealand youth, identifies gaps in the understanding of water safety by these same youth, and suggests ways of addressing the shortcomings. A questionnaire was completed by 2,202 youth in a nationwide survey, New Zealand Youth Water Safety Survey 2003. Self-reported swimming, rescue, and resuscitation skills and understanding of small-boat safety and surf safety were the competencies chosen to evaluate youth skills and knowledge. Many estimated that they could not swim more than 100 m (n = 1192; 54%) or that they could not perform CPR (n = 939; 43%). When analyzed by gender, socio-economic status, and ethnicity, the lack of water safety knowledge among males, youth from low socio-economic status schools, and Pacific Islands and Asian students was consistent and pronounced. The author discusses the implications of these shortcomings on youth drowning risk and recommends ways to address inequities in the provision of water-safety education in schools.