Clubbie Profile June: Ava del Tufo

Our Clubbie Profile for June is Ava del Tufo from Mollymook SLSC. The inspirational 17 year old only just last week was elected School Captain and plays a vital role in the development of young surf lifesavers at her club by having her own peer mentoring program called Big Fish, Little Fish.

Club: Mollymook SLSC

When did you join Surf Life Saving and why?

I joined Surf Life Saving in 2008 when we moved here from Colorado. My mum, who is Australian, wanted my brother and I to learn how to be safe in the ocean. Are there any lessons that you’ve learnt from your time in Surf Life Saving?
I think that the biggest lesson I have learnt is the importance and the pleasure of community service. Volunteering is so important and it connects you to your community.

Tell us about Big Fish, Little Fish.

Big Fish, Little Fish is a peer mentoring program that began in 2013/2014 at Mollymook Surf Club. I noticed there was a big gap in teenage participation within our club after Nippers ended and I knew teenagers like myself still wanted to participate but there wasn't really any pathway for them.

I had participated in a mentoring program at a swim club in Colorado that was kind of similar and it was great. I approached the surf club to get it started and they were totally on board. We formed a committee of 'Big Fish' and along with the guidance of Mr Ring (Mollymook's Youth Coordinator) and from there we devised the program.

We have Junior Big Fish and Senior Big Fish and everyone gets to work in an area of the team that they are interested in (for example public relations, publicity or photography etc). Our Little Fish range in age from under 8s to under 13s and Big Fish range in age from under 13s to under 18s. We get together once a month to play games and interact. Our first night we had 20 Little Fish and now we have over 80! We have seen a 250% rise in young people who are staying within the surf club. Of that number, 90-95% are part of Big Fish, Little Fish.

You must have a great passion for development within Surf Life Saving, where has this passion come from?

In 2010, my brother who was nine years old became very sick and sadly passed away. During his illness I met so many people who volunteer their time to help others. It inspired me to always do the same and I decided to devote myself to serving the community. I also found a sense of belonging and support within Mollymook Surf Club. Belonging to the surf club helped me get through a terrible time.

What are your goals within Surf Life Saving?

My main goal would be to see Big Fish, Little Fish go into more clubs throughout NSW and Australia. All clubs could benefit from this program. Keeping kids in our clubs will ensure the future of Surf Life Saving.

What has been your best memory as a clubbie?

My best memory as a clubbie would have to be the first night of Big Fish, Little Fish. I was standing there and all these kids were laughing and dancing and having an amazing time and everyone was so excited! I will remember that night forever!

Tell us about your club, Mollymook.

Mollymook is an amazing surf club. Not only is it the best beach in Australia (!), it is also a club that values every member. Everyone has a voice and they invest a lot of time into their younger members. It is a really strongly bonded club.

Who is someone you admire in the Surf Life Saving movement and why?

I really admire my Patrol Captain, Ros. He manages a full patrol and is always supportive of his whole crew. He is really good at dealing with us teenagers. He is always calm and non-judgemental! He gives everyone the chance to learn and to do their best and always makes patrolling fun and inspirational. For the last few years we have won the Patrol of the Year award and this is because of Ros.

Favourite beach that isn’t yours?

I really love Washerwoman's Beach at Bendelong - it is so beautiful there. There is never a bad beach day at Washies!

Anything else you would like to add…

Surf Life Saving has given me opportunities that I will be forever grateful for. I have been sent on great camps and been given the chance to develop leadership skills. I have made great friendships with people of all ages and have learnt so many skills. Thank you!!!

Photo: Ava and fellow Mollymook member, Mark Ring who assists with Big Fish, Little Fish.

Thu 30 Jun 2016