“It Just Gets In Your Blood” – Windang Clubbie’s Love Of Lifesaving

It was love that first introduced Windang Life Member Kaye Norris to the world of lifesaving, and as she celebrates the conclusion of her 25th patrolling summer it is also love that keeps bringing her back.

In 1991 Kaye made her way down to the Towradgi Surf Life Saving Club and signed up against the wishes of her then boyfriend.

“I had never really had any experience of Surf Life Saving before I joined the club, but I wanted to join because I thought it would be a good chance to spend some time with my boyfriend. He didn’t like it too much as we later broke up, and I think he might have actually left the movement. I stayed and have been involved ever since,” Kaye Norris said.

She would stay at Towradgi for a further 6 years and made the shift to her present club Windang in the summer of 1997. Once again cupid would cast an arrow in her direction and he was wearing red and yellow.

“I actually met my husband through Surf Life Saving and we’ve been together patrolling Windang ever since. We’re actually both Life Members of the club which is very special.”

Apart from a love of patrolling Kaye Norris also quickly took an interest in Surf Sports becoming an IRB Patient in 1992 at Towradgi and then earning her driver qualifications to compete in the annual winter series.

Unfortunately for the enthusiastic clubbie, being the only female IRB competitor for her club at that time it became a regular challenge to get enough numbers to enter a team. As a result the resourceful Norris has been something of a gun for hire.

“I’ve spent a season here and there. Clubs will often ring me up asking if I could race for them, and it became a good way to stay in the sport. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get a team this season, but I’m hopeful we will get one again soon.”

She’s pretty handy on the beach as well having won medals in her favoured Beach Flag event at an international Masters level and cites racing on home soil in Glenelg at the 2012 Rescue as a particular highlight.

But it is in education and mentoring the lifesavers of tomorrow where she has had the most impact, culminating in national recognition when she was awarded Trainer of the Year.

“I love working with youth and I think it’s really important to give them an opportunity to learn these skills as sometimes there isn’t enough for them to do. I actually had that experience with my daughter recently. She had never really shown an interest in the surf club, probably because we spent so much time there and I don’t think she enjoyed Nippers.

“She borrowed a pair of my patrol shorts recently for a school camp and found them to be really comfortable and when she returned she asked me how she could get some. I told her she’d need to come down and do her SRC and she did it and is now patrolling which is something she really enjoys.

“It’s great that she gets that opportunity because she just wants to patrol and not do anything else and lifesaving allows her to do that.”

As someone involved in training and assessing, Kaye is particularly well placed to offer her thoughts on the challenges of engaging and retaining young members.

“We’re actually pretty lucky at Windang this year as we’ve trained more Bronzes than we have in the last couple of seasons but yes it is always an ongoing issue.

“I truly believe that the best way to reach the youth members is with a personal touch. I found that young members in that 15-20 age group are more responsive to calls. They’re so used to being bombarded with emails and messages that they tune out after a while, but if you talk to them let them know what’s going on and what is available they’ll respond to that.”

And while there have been plenty of highlights in her time in lifesaving for Kaye Norris one memory that she cherishes actually occurred earlier in the 2015/16 season.

“I got to patrol with my husband, daughter, son, and his girlfriend at the one time which was a very special moment even though it’s a nightmare to wash uniforms!”

“For me it’s been a very satisfying journey in lifesaving. I think what is so special about the movement is that it’s really family oriented and something you can all do together. We’re also taught skills that you don’t get to every day. I mean we’re taught how to save a life we can drive a jet ski or an IRB there’s just so many different opportunities.

“Did I think I would be doing it this long? No I didn’t. When I was 30 standing on the start line and watching the older competitors I couldn’t imagine still being able to do it at that age, but it truly gets in your blood and that’s why I keep coming back.”

Photograph - The Norris family on patrol at Windang Beach during the 2015/16 season.L-R Nic Digenni, Claire Stanly (Nic's partner). Kaye, Alyssa and Jayson Norris. Photo courtesy of Kaye Norris

Wed 18 May 2016