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When most people picture our nation’s capital they think of wide open spaces and the heartland of political power; indeed a day at the beach and a bunch of Nippers running around would probably be the last thing to come to mind.  But one surf life saving club is trying to change that perception and is winning acclaim for those efforts.

The Canberra/Broulee Nippers Club is only in its second season and was recently rewarded for its innovative approach to Surf Life Saving by winning the Sport Minister’s Award for Innovation at the Canberra Sports Awards in a highly competitive category.

“It’s amazing to get this recognition and be acknowledged by the ACT Government,” said Bethany Williams who is the founder and manager of the club.

“There’s been a lot of work to get to this point and what I really hope to achieve is for it to continue to grow and help pass on the skills and knowledge to children right across the area.”

The inspiration for the club struck Williams when she realised that her children were getting to an age where they wanted to swim beyond the break in the ocean.

“I think there’s a real need for surf life saving skills in Canberra. Because of our geographical position and hot summers, most of the population head to the coast, whether it’s for a weekend break or annual holidays.

“Many families who move here have a background in surf clubs. The parents used to live on the coast but there was absolutely nothing available here for their children to learn Nipper skills.”

The hunch that there was an underlying need for this within the community proved to be correct.

In October 2016 the club kicked off their first ever season with 80 Nippers ranging in age from 6 to 14.

The program proved to be so popular that this season they had to cap numbers at 130 (on par with some of the established coastal clubs) due to the lack of access to suitable facilities.

But none of this would be possible without the Broulee Surfers SLSC half of the partnership.

“The current President of the Club was actually an old teacher of mine so I had that connection, but I must say he was truly on board with the idea and the club have been nothing but supportive,” said Bethany Williams.

“Far South Coast Branch recognised the need too and to their credit, they were willing to think outside the box. I would like to thank Wendy Law who has basically been my other half for the project, making sure that everything that needs to get done is being done.

“I would like to think we’ve had an impact on the Broulee club in a positive way and helped their membership grow.”

Utilising a local swimming pool for participants, the program closely matches the experience of their coastal peers, while once a month the club makes the trek to Broulee for a session on the beach. It’s a system that is working well with Canberra/Broulee Nippers hoping to eventually field a team at the NSW Pool Rescue Championships.

“We’d love to get our kids up to a level where they feel comfortable enough to compete and I believe Pool Rescue will ultimately be a good first step in that because a lot of them have a background in swimming,” said Williams.

“At the end of the day it’s about making sure that our children have the skills and knowledge to stay safe in the surf.

“We’re putting them through leadership activities and giving them qualifications and we’ve had one group do their Surf Rescue Certificate and they absolutely love it.”

It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for the state’s newest Nipper club and Canberra/Broulee Nippers will continue to make waves across the movement as they continue to contribute to their community in a positive way.


Friday 8 December 2017