The Portsea Surf Life Saving Club’s Nippers program was in full swing from late December through to early January with more than 600 Nippers, their families and hundreds of volunteers making it a huge success.
Club vice-president and head of junior development Brett Croft explains:
“The Portsea SLSC Nippers program focuses on water safety, first aid, rip and wave formation while teaching the kids about environmental and sustainable issues. It also builds confidence and camaraderie. The kids look after each other, and this lays a solid foundation for the early adult years when relying on friends can become especially important. The program ran from December 27 to January 8. They came from all across Melbourne and even Wangaratta and were of all abilities because we believe that ‘everyone is the same on the beach and in the water’ at Portsea SLSC. It was amazing.”
The expression ‘start them young’ exists for a reason. Kids are like sponges and soak up learning like there’s no tomorrow, so it’s important to fuel the fire with the good stuff. This year, Portsea Nippers were especially ready to roll because COVID-19 had prevented them from participating in any sporting activities or hanging out with friends for what seemed like for ever. Point Nepean bay beach and Portsea back beach became hives of activity. There was freedom and fun to be had and the atmosphere was electric.
Brett continues: “The program looked different this year and was incredibly successful. We had a COVID office to ensure proper COVID-19 protocol and were required to sanitise all equipment. The parents were ‘fenced’ off from the kids, which interestingly gave them more independence. Their attention span increased and their confidence grew. We will certainly consider doing this again for next season.”
The Portsea SLSC’s Nipper program offers seven sessions from under-7s through to under-13s, and many participants go on to complete their Surf Rescue Certificate and Bronze Medallion, which covers rescue techniques, tube and board techniques, extensive water/tide/rip theory and more first aid. Friends made on the sandy shores of the Peninsula over summer are often friends for life, but none of this could happen without the huge commitment from the volunteers who understand the value of mentorship and lifelong fitness.
Brett concludes: “One of our volunteers has been patrolling the beach for 50 years, and the successful rescue at Bushrangers Bay in January was performed by the chief lifeguard for Mornington, Chris Perrott, who went through our Nipper program. Everyone feels like they are part of our tribe and there are over 200 volunteers from diverse backgrounds, including local residents and parents who make this work. The youngest member on the Nippers committee is 17 years old, and planning for the end-of-year event often begins in May or June.”
Talk about friendship-based volunteer allegiance. Our beach safety and future community well-being depends on it.