This paper proposes that the teaching of beginner swimming should be organized according to the causes of drowning. We surveyed drowning reports, interviewed drowning survivors, and observed simulated drowning victims to determine common characteristics associated with drowning. We also reviewed 25 swimming instructional programs offered by well-recognized national programs from 18 separate countries and identified 8 common beginning swimming skills. These skills could be closely connected with the causes of drowning. We proposed a definition for being able to swim that should be given common international acceptance so that learning to swim can actually provide skills needed for preventing drowning.