The 'Swim Reaper' is lurking - Campaign using dark humour launched to help reverse high incidence of young men drowning during Kiwi summer

Today marks the first day of summer and with it comes an important message to swimmers – don't make bad decisions in or near the water or the "Swim Reaper" will be waiting for you.

Young male New Zealanders are overrepresented in drowning statistics. Source: 1 NEWS

In the summer of 2015, 113 people drowned, with one in three of those being young men.

Water Safety New Zealand now has a dark new advocate that is aimed at bringing those numbers down.

The Swim Reaper now has a presence on Instagram and will be making guest appearances at beaches, rivers and poolside.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Jonty Mills said using a bit of dark humour gets it through with a serious undertone message that the swim reaper is a potential consequence of bad decisions around water.

"It's a dark way to shed light on one of our most dangerous summer activities."

Young men are the big problem for officials, only 14 per cent of the population is made up of 15-30 year old but they are behind one out of every three drownings.

Randall Freeman said he has had a brush with the swim reaper.

"In that moment I did kind of feel like death was coming for me."

He said he "heard a few sirens but weren't quite sure what it was".

"I should have known it was the damn sirens. From there the rocks that we were on started to disappear with the water rising and my friends got swept down.

"The rapids were just getting to powerful that it pulled me under," he said.

Randall said younger people can kind of feel "invincible and like nothing can happen to us".

"But the reality is nature is pretty powerful and when we're in places where we don't belong, bad things are going to happen."

Mr Mills said the general advice is "people need to be aware of the conditions,"

"Know their own limits and make wise decisions around water, particularly when alcohol is a factor."