Worldwide, epidemiological data indicate that children are a high-risk group for drowning and while progress has been made in understanding toddler drownings, there is a lack of empirical evidence regarding the drowning risk and protective factors inherent for adolescents and young adults. This study used a self-report questionnaire to establish swimming and water safety knowledge and attitudes of young adults and objectively measured their actual swimming ability using formal practical testing procedures. Participants then completed a short, 12-week intervention that encompassed swimming, survival and rescue skills, along with water safety knowledge applicable to a range of aquatic environments. Knowledge, attitudes and swimming ability were then re-measured following the intervention to evaluate its effectiveness. The Wilcoxon matched pairs signed ranks test was performed to detect whether there were significant differences between knowledge, attitude and swim ability scores pre-intervention and post-intervention. A total of 135 participants completed the baseline and follow up questionnaire and all practical testing. Results indicated that these young adults had a very low level of water safety knowledge pre-intervention, although the majority had sound swimming and water safety skills and attitudes. Overall, significant improvements were evident in knowledge (p<0.001) and swim ability (p<0.001) post-intervention, although no changes were observed in attitudes (p=0.079). Previous participation in formal swimming lessons and/or swimming within the school curriculum had no significant impact on water safety knowledge, skills or attitudes of these young adults, and there were few significant gender differences. While it is important to conduct further studies to confirm that these findings are consistent with a more representative sample of young adults, our findings are the first to provide empirical evidence of the value of a comprehensive aquatic education program as a drowning prevention strategy for young adults.