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An island oasis in the Tasman Sea isn’t a location that immediately springs to mind when it comes to a Nippers program, but just as it is in mainland Australian for the people of Lord Howe Island beach safety is an important community concern.

Situated 600 kilometres east of Port Macquarie and approximately 2 hours flight time from Sydney this patch of paradise famous for its natural beauty, wildlife and geography is an unusual setting for a Surf Life Saving Junior Activities Program.

In October Steve Allan an experienced trainer from Surf Life Saving NSW travelled to the Island for a week of training and educational opportunities for parents and youngsters alike.

This was a program with a difference.

As there are no formal sporting clubs in place for the island’s children there historically has been a gap in the market for an organisation to offer a new product.

Due to its mass appeal to thousands of NSW families and the fact it’s not just about producing athletes but teaching skills for life, Nippers seemed a natural fit in a place absolutely surrounded by water.

Over the course of the week 25 kids aged 5-13 participated in water sessions in a fun and healthy way.

More importantly however were the sessions for the parents and volunteers which were aimed to teach them how to be age managers, how to structure lessons, and all the little things that people who grow up around Nippers and the beach take for granted.

The parents and volunteers also complete training in Water Safety, being the SLSA Surf Rescue Certificate, plus gained additional Risk Assessment skills and knowledge.

A significant challenge on an island that is only about 2 kilometres across at its widest point is that space is at a premium.

On the mainland in most instances Nippers can simply be relocated either to the north or south to an area of the beach that is suited to their skills, but on Lord Howe Island that simply wasn’t an option with Lagoon Beach and Ned’s Beach both used at various times throughout the course.

“It was a fantastic week and it was awesome to see the skills of the kids and adults improve so rapidly throughout the week as their confidence around the water grew,” said Steve Allan.

“Our main goal was to impart knowledge and while it was challenging to set a program because of the different ages of the kids they responded so positively to whatever we asked of them, and I think they all felt part of the Nippers family.

“This program isn’t about producing the next superstar Ironman although like all of our members they can certainly dare to dream, but what we are trying to do is pass on skills for life.

“Water safety is a fundamental part of the Australian culture and whether you’re a Nipper taking part in a session at Coogee or swimming in a lagoon at Lord Howe Island everyone needs to have access to the education lessons that could help keep them safe around the water,” Mr Allan said.

The visit to the island was also an opportunity to assess the proficiency of one local surf club member, a required part of being a lifesaver.

In the past members living on Lord Howe Island would need to travel to the mainland for this annual test.

It was a welcome change for members to have the opportunity to be able to requalify in their home conditions and was certainly very much appreciated.

Summer at Lord Howe Island has well and truly arrived and thanks to innovative sessions such as these families can rest easy knowing that they have access to the same information that has been and will continue to prepare Nippers for a life around the water over several generations.


Friday 14 December 2018