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Boasting a population in excess of a billion people and thousands of kilometres of coastline, India is a nation on the rise. One challenge that the country desperately needs to address is its alarmingly high rate of drowning. Two young men are keen to do their part to arrest the problem with the help of Coogee SLSC.

Twenty-six-year-old Niroop G R and Srikrishna Vasantha (24) began 2018 by completing an intensive Bronze Medallion course at Sydney’s Coogee Beach with the pair arguably at the very heart of the fledging life saving movement in India.

Their journey from Mangalore on India’s west coast to the small (at least in population) but popular Sydney beach is one driven by a passion for the water and a desire to not only better their own skills but to help others learn the techniques that could save lives.

Underscoring their dedication was the fact that the two young men were on the beach participating in their first session of what was a nine day course, within hours of landing in Australia on 5 January.

As hard as it is to imagine, India simply does not have a culture of lifesaving and a respect for the ocean that is ingrained in most Aussies living along the coast.

This contributes to a drowning toll across all bodies of water that is conservatively estimated at around 30,000 people a year, and many are children.

It is an all too familiar story across the region and it had a big impact on Coogee’s Doug Hawkins when he visited the country in 2015.

“Having seen the issues in India with regards to beach safety and the lack of understanding of the dangers, plus the limited training opportunities available, I decided to see if I could arrange to bring some lifesavers from Mangalore to Australia for enhanced and intensive training.

“This would then form the start of a Beach Safety Centre with highly trained local lifesavers, who can then train others in surf life saving techniques in Mangalore and beyond,” Doug Hawkins said.

Australia’s Bronze Medallion qualification is recognised around the globe as a high honour, with Australian volunteer lifesavers considered to be trained to extremely high standards.

But it wasn’t just the qualification that was important to the two men.

It was the opportunity that it represented.

Once back in India the duo and the SLS India team will be focused on finalising the development of India’s first Beach Safety Centre - based on the Australian model of a Surf Life Saving Club.

In August a team of surf lifesavers from Coogee and other clubs across the state will be heading to Mangalore to train around 100 locals in a range of different lifesaving courses and skills.

It is hoped that other council areas in India will see this program as a successful model that can easily be implemented along its vast stretches of coastline.

“While in India I personally saw a number of incidents where people obviously had no concept of the dangers of the ocean,” said Doug Hawkins.

“Water safety education is not a priority in India, and yet thousands drown every year – it is one of the highest percentages in the world. We can help change this.”


Wednesday 31 January 2018