The contributions of four lifesavers from the Far North Coast were recognised at Surf Life Saving NSW’s Awards of Excellence in Sydney last weekend.
The annual Awards of Excellence honour outstanding achievements in all aspects of surf life saving. A record number of lifesavers from across NSW attended the event held in Sydney on 31 August.
Television personality and Surf Life Saving member, Tom Williams, hosted the evening. He shared the stage with the state’s top surf lifesavers as they were honoured in front of their peers.
Patrol Captain of the Year: Kaitlin Smith
Kaitlin Smith from Cudgen Headland Surf Life Saving Club won the Patrol Captain of the Year Award. Kaitlin has been an active surf lifesaver at Cudgen Headland for over 10 years where she dedicates her time each season to patrolling the popular Kingscliff Beach.
A natural leader and lifesaver, Kaitlin took on the role of Patrol Captain when she was just 17. She has overseen hundreds of preventative actions and managed many critical incidents - including search and rescue callouts, shark encounters and first aid treatments.
“My mum and dad put me in Nippers when I was five. The pathways to learning about the ocean, competing and then moving into being a lifeguard and being a patrol captain and learning more skills and educating the public is a very big part of my life.”
Kaitlin spends a significant amount of time nurturing her patrol members, building their confidence in the water and developing their skills to maintain a strong team.
“I try and make a casual but fun and engaging patrol where everyone feels valued. We do many practice rescues to ensure we all know our position in the team. I try to make everyone feel very valued which I think is the most important part of my job,” said Kaitlin.
Kaitlin is passionate about the delivery of water safety programs in the local community. She invests time into youth and parent education programs to ensure water safety is delivered to the wider community.
“My ambition is to travel to other countries like Thailand and Vietnam to educate people in water safety to keep those communities safe on the beach,” Kaitlin said.
Lifeguard of the Year: Ben Dickens
Ben Dickens from Ballina Shire won the Lifeguard of the Year Award for going above and beyond the call of duty as a professional Lifeguard for the Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) last season.
A leader, mentor, educator and skilled waterman, Ben’s commitment and passion for his job on and off the beach has been outstanding.
“As a lifeguard we’ve all come through the surf life saving Nippers system. Volunteer lifesaving is a good pathway to becoming a lifeguard,” said Ben Dickens.
Ben has been involved in school surf safety programs and has been a trainer and mentor to the younger Lifeguards.
“Once we train the kids, we all become great friends and we’re one big family looking out for each other. We watch each other’s backs,” Ben said.
Ben is a great ambassador for the Australian Lifeguard Service and has taken the initiative of educating groups of local surfers about Lifeguard operations and how to respond during emergencies.
“I get the honour of putting up the flags every day on the beach. To be able to do that is an honour - and to protect the community,” Ben said.
As a skilled jetski operator between Lennox Head and Ballina, he has responded to and managed countless beach evacuations and rescues quickly and professionally over the season.
Ben has displayed bravery on a number of occasions and provides a high quality, professional service to councils on behalf of the Australian Lifeguard Service.
Youth Volunteer of the Year: Aidan Yourell, Evans Head-Casino SLSC
Winner of the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award, Aidan Yourell, is the personification of the modern Surf Life Saving movement.
As the Evans Head Casino Surf Life Saving Club Vice-Captain and patrol vice-captain, Aidan completed an extraordinary 200 volunteer patrol hours last season.
Aidan actively gives his time to fundraise for the club, participates in water safety activities and even lends a hand with club maintenance.
During the season he initiated a ‘buddy system’ for the Nippers program, assigning older youth members to mentor Nippers participants. This initiative had a significant impact on increasing engagement and retention in each group. Aidan is considered a key mentor in the Nippers program and has achieved five separate awards this season.
Aidan is a role model to other young people in the Surf Life Saving movement through his generosity of spirit and his passion for Surf Life Saving.
Junior Lifesaver of the Year: Mikala Campbell, Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC
Mikala has been involved in Surf Life Saving since she joined the U7s. She received her Surf Rescue Certificate earlier this year and loves competing in team events – particularly at the Country Championships.
Humble in her achievements, Mikala is already an outstanding patrolling member, competitor and community member who is excited about contributing to her club and branch in every area. Her energy and enthusiasm inspire her fellow club members - from younger Nippers right through to the club’s leaders.
NSW Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence – Far North Coast Recipients
- Patrol Captain of the Year – Kaitlin Smith (Cudgen Headland SLSC)
- Junior Lifesaver of the Year – Mikala Campbell (Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC)
- Youth Volunteer of the Year – Aiden Yourell (Evans Head-Casino SLSC)
- Lifeguard of the Year – Ben Dickens (Ballina Shire)
Friday 6 September 2019