Mayors Message - 10 January 2023
The spate of tragic drownings across our state so far this summer is distressing but should be avoidable. Life savers constantly advise us to swim between the flags and not to swim alone. The tragedy is many people do not understand beach safety and do not heed the advice.
Surf lifesaving clubs dot the coastline of Gippsland and provide an essential service of patrolling the beaches, providing beachgoers with advice on where to swim safely and, most importantly, rescuing those who get into trouble. Most surf lifesaving clubs run a Nippers program which has the dual purpose of teaching children aged 5 to 13 how to stay safe at beach whilst also training them to eventually become surf lifesavers themselves when they are old enough.
This week I caught up with James Langlands from Cape Paterson Surf Lifesaving Club to chat about the Nippers and Starfish program that they run over a two week period in January. He stressed the importance of teaching kids the skills not only to stay safe in the water, but to help others and maybe even find a career as a lifesaver.
I watched the program and could see the wonderful benefit of the program with young people progressing through the program to become budding lifesavers themselves. I saw children supporting each other making friendships and developing a wonderful supportive leadership ethic. It is about participation, friendship and support for others. So while every parent wants their child to learn to swim and stay safe around water these programs provide a great opportunity.
A wonderful part of Nippers program is the Starfish Nippers program that provides kids with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the program supported 1-on-1 by trained helpers. I was in the water at the time and could see the joy on the child’s face as they rode a small wave into shore. The program is designed for young people aged 6 years and above who have a disability, including physical and intellectual disabilities and learning difficulties. The program is modified to suit an individual participant’s needs so everyone can be included.
This season, Cape Paterson Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) has a record number of over 300 kids enrolled in the Nippers program running from 27 December to 14 January. The Club is going from strength to strength following the completion of their new clubhouse in 2021 which provides a fantastic vantage point to watch the sunset.
At the end of the Surf Education program, nippers will have a good awareness of beach hazards such as rocks and surf conditions (eg. rips) and also increase their proficiency in the surf. Nippers activities are designed to be age appropriate and include swimming, board paddling, wading, running, beach flags and relays with a focus on having fun, learning new skills and teamwork, the program also includes a day of competition that culminates in the Iron Nipper race: a run, swim and board paddle.
2023 has also seen the return of inter-club activity – with Cape Paterson SLSC hosting Inverloch SLSC on Saturday January 7th at the Cape Paterson ‘First Surf’ beach for a friendly nipper carnival.
It's fabulous to see these programs being run across our region. These programs wouldn’t be possible without hundreds of volunteers and parents.