Over 25,000 kids between 5-13 years took part in the Nippers junior activities program this season in NSW. They learn about surf safety, gain skills in the water as well as participate in competition with many also representing their clubs in local, branch and state championship events.
As their skills and confidence in the surf grows, they observe the culture and commitment of their club’s qualified lifesavers and senior members.
They are fast and fearless and time and time again we see the youngest members of the movement perform outstanding rescues.
The 2021 NSW Age Championships, proudly supported by Your local club was held at Swansea Belmont SLSC and on Friday 26 February there was almost 1,000 people on the beach either competing or watching our youngest competitors take on the waves.
For three young Nippers from South Maroubra SLSC, it was a State Champs they’ll never forget.
It was just after lunch on the second day of competition for the Nippers and Owen, Tate and Jordan were on the line for the Under 11 Male Surf Race final.
Parents of the finalists were standing on the beach, eagerly watching as the boys sprinted off the start line into the challenging surf.
All the boys were almost clear of the break. Owen was sitting in second place as the pack approached the turning can when the unexpected happened.
“About ten metres away from the cans I just couldn’t breathe,” recounts Owen who began to suffer an asthma attack in the water.
He flipped onto his back and tried to remain calm. Within seconds he felt someone by his side.
Tate didn’t hesitate to respond, and perhaps without truly realising the courage and maturity of his decision, he swam towards the person he could see was in distress.
“I was swimming and out of nowhere I saw someone’s legs stop underwater,” said Tate. “I went over to them and when I got there, I realised it was Owen.
“He just told me to keep swimming, but I said no, and I called for help.”
Coming up from the side towards the cans, Jordan also swam towards the boys to help.
“I held Owen above the water as soon as I reached him and Tate was signalling to the IRB for help,” said Jordan.
“I just thought to myself, he’s a friend – the race doesn’t matter. I need to help him no matter what,” said Jordan.
Sacrificing their places and potentially medals in the final as the pack swam on past the boys, Tate and Jordan didn’t leave their friend, continuing to reassure Owen as they waited for the IRB to make its way through the pack of swimmers.
“I was very dizzy and I couldn’t breathe. I felt like my life was going to end,” said Owen.
“Then I just had two kids come along and save me. It was quite nice to know that I got saved by two kids in a surf race and that they gave up their position to help me.”
The South Maroubra Under 11s Team Manager Renae McNamara said “it was a phenomenal effort by the boys, for them this is all about mateship and we’re just so proud of them.
“They didn’t hesitate to give up their own race and put into practice their junior lifesaving skills, because that’s what they are first and foremost, they’re junior lifesavers in training,” she said.
“What they learn is how to be a lifesaver and competition is a fun side of that. To them, if you see somebody in trouble you rescue them and that’s what they did, and we couldn’t be more proud.”
Renae McNamara said to have kids as young as 10 and 11 years old with the skills and competency to rescue somebody is amazing and a credit to the organisation. “These are the future lifesavers of Australia and we’ve got them here in training and putting their skills into action. They have learned the rescue skills, they know who to call and what to do in an emergency which is just incredible.
“It was big surf that day, really tough conditions and all they want to do is save somebody’s life.”
Wednesday 31 March 2021