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While large parts of NSW collectively celebrate more than a month out of lockdown, the spirit and togetherness the restrictions cultivated burns bright at Caves Beach SLSC, thanks to a pioneering virtual program designed to engage with youth at the club.

Equally, the giving nature of our elite athletes as a means to inspiring the next generation shows the pathway to success is paved with sound guidance and good advice.

When Caves Beach approached Ironwoman champion, Lizzie Welborn (Newport SLSC) during lockdown about their ‘Paddlers Pod’ – a virtual forum for the club’s Nippers, board trainers and cadets to share jokes and goals and stay connected – they had no idea how enthusiastic she would be to assist.

“I said I’d love to be a part of it because I love those sorts of things,” Lizzie said.

“Over the past two years I’ve been doing lots of talks and I’ve pieced together my story in a way that I know is useful to tell. It’s essentially what I would want to hear from older me if I was young.

“When I was in their shoes I loved hearing stories from the older athletes in my sport, and in turn I love sharing mine now with younger athletes.

“To have the opportunity to play a role in keeping them in the sport, in keeping them inspired, I want to be that person.”

As a member of the NSW Surf Sports Standing Committee, Lizzie is constantly looking for innovative ways to build relationships across surf clubs throughout the state – particularly those without access to the resources of the larger Sydney clubs.

While the subject matter will change from that which she presented to Caves Beach SLSC, which was heavily inspired by lockdown activities, Lizzie expressed interest in developing a similar mentorship program for young aspiring athletes.

“With Caves Beach they were quite young, so I didn’t want to tell them anything silly,” she said.

“A lot of kids these days, their lives are non-stop, so I wanted them to enjoy themselves. Go paddling with a friend, do what you feel like doing on that day, that’s the sort of thing we talked about.

“It was so rewarding seeing the look on their faces – that look you get when you know you can achieve things.”

Lizzie faces her next big challenge on Saturday, but this one won’t be virtual. Instead, she will be lining up in the Bate Bay Gold Elite Female Short Course Enduro alongside some of the state’s best athletes.

It will mark a return to competition for many, and the first opportunity to put the training completed under strict social distancing restrictions during lockdown to the test.

“We were trying to follow a normal program [during lockdown] but we had to do it solo, which is something we’ve never really had to do before,” Lizzie said.

“I think it’ll be rewarding because we got through it, we did it all without knowing when it would end, and now we’re out the other side and have had a few weeks of training as normal as well.

“It’s been a rollercoaster of a season.”

Thursday 18 November 2021