"Many more women and children would have been saved if they knew how to swim," says Girlie Ganage, aged 44, as she practises her breast stroke in a private 12 metre pool.
The school teacher from Mirissa, in the south-west of Sri Lanka, is among 25 women here who have decided that it is time to learn to swim following the horrors of December’s Indian Ocean tsunami.
But that involves breaking some unwritten rules.
"Before the tsunami, it would have been unthinkable. Men still don’t believe me when I tell them," Mrs Ganage says.
The culture in Sri Lanka prevents mixed bathing in the few public swimming pools which do exist – most of which are in the capital Colombo – so opportunities for women have been almost non-existent.
"We could never go into the sea in our swimming costumes anyway, we have to go fully clothed, so it’s impossible to swim," explains Pushpa Kodippila, 43, a mother of two.
Fahim doesn’t know how to swim, and he told me – before I came – that, other than at the resorts, people don’t wear swimming suits at the beach, nor do they swim in the ocean. They may dip their toes in or go in up to their knees or some such, but swimming? No.
Men, on the other hand, do bathe in lakes and other watering holes. I see them as my trishaw takes me out and about. Usually, they’re wearing nothing but their underwear.
It does make me wonder – I mean, yes, I’ve figured out that women never bathe in public like the men do, but why do the men go to the lakes and such, but not the ocean? Or, hardly ever the ocean, anyway? Is it just the strong currents? In combination with not knowing how to swim?