Young athletes from around the state, and further afield, met on the beach at Torquay’s Cosy Corner earlier in the month for the second Junior Carnival of the season, and the first for the new year.
The carnival has been run at the same time over the summer holiday break every year since around 2005 and is described as: “Electric, full of energy, fun and with fantastic displays of camaraderie and sportsmanship.”
These attributes were certainly on display with another large turnout of Nippers, representing 27 lifesaving clubs and over 1,500 competitors, when they lined up from early morning to start events such as iron, board, races, beach flags and wade relay.
LSV Aquatic Sport Senior Coordinator Kirsty Clark said it was a day of friendly competition, where many Nippers were competing for their clubs for the very first time to showcase their talents.
Torquay’s Cosy Corner again proved to be a great location for the event, with the perfect conditions to suit all abilities. The layout of the beach also meant a sea of pink rash vests and colourful club caps across the long stretch of sand.
Highlights included Billy Reid competing for Lorne SLSC at the event, following in the footsteps of parents Bec and Tristan Reid, as well as his granddad and LSV Life Member, Neil Moriarty.
It was also great to see the red and white checked shirts of South Australia’s Brighton Surf Life Saving Club competing on Victorian sand. Brighton had 38 junior competitors and 35 parents, who are said to have had as much fun, if not more, than the nippers they travelled with.
Brighton Surf Life Saving Club’s VP – Junior Division, Kevin Whelan said of the event: “As most South Australian Surf Clubs are located within protected waters, we don’t often have surf carnivals in surf conditions. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to travel interstate to give our Nippers the opportunity to learn, develop and compete in different environments.”
“We thought your Cosy Corner carnival was well organised and ran very smoothly. The conditions were ideal with a small wave on the day with the incoming tide, perfect for our juniors! The extended “Clubbie Family” was very evident with some good friendships formed with parents and competitors for future years to come and we look forward to coming back next year.”
Closer to home, Lorne Surf Life Saving Club’s David Hay, VP Youth/Nippers Development, said the club had a good turnout at the carnival and everyone enjoyed the day.
“It’s a credit to LSV and all the volunteers, as it’s a massive achievement and was a fantastic day,” says David. “As well as competing, it’s nice to catch up with our friends from the other clubs. That camaraderie and friendship is a real feature of the carnival, as well as the competitive aspect.”
What is Nippers?
The Nippers program is about children aged between 5-14 years participating in safe, fun and organised activities in a beach environment, as well as equipping young people with the basic lifesaving skills required to be safe around any aquatic environment.
It was introduced as a national program by the Surf Life Saving Association in the 1960s, but was adopted back in the 1920s and 30s by various clubs, some of which only accepted boys, while others ran Nipperette or Mermaid programs for the girls.
How times have changed! Now, we have females making up over half of the junior participation. Nippers is also proudly inclusive of all Victorians, including our newest migrants to Australia – who may have little or no knowledge of our ocean conditions – who can meet new families and forge friendships, while developing health lifestyles, water safety and lifesaving skills.
Nippers success stories include the likes of Sam Sheppard and Harriet Brown, two athletes currently competing at the highest level, as well Olympian Cam Prosser. Family ties also link many Nippers, such as Darryl Moss (2016 Australian DHL Volunteer of the Year) and his daughter Cassie (current Beach Lifeguard of the Year), who continues to excel by participating in LSV’s Building Leaders Scholarship program.
Sophie Riddel, who started with Portsea as a 10-year-old Nipper and progressed to be Portsea’s Club Captain, is another example of the pathways lifesaving can supply. She is now a practising doctor and has just taken up a position on the Membership and Leadership Council Executive as Female Leadership Network Coordinator.
The Future of Nippers
“The great aspect about Nippers is that whether you’re there to build water safety skills, for the social aspects, health and fitness or a longer-term pathway into lifesaving, every Nipper is learning life-long skills and gaining life-long friends,” says Emma Atkins, LSV’s GM People. “Nippers and Clubs are a wonderful place to meet new people from varied backgrounds for a common goal to enjoy and be safe in and around water. The most surprising thing Nippers families find about the program is just how inclusive it really can be for the whole family, no matter your abilities or skills, there is a place for all family members in lifesaving.”
She says there are many opportunities beyond the beach and the flexibility of the program means the learnings and benefits can be transferable to other water environments, inland lakes, rivers and swimming pools.
“We’re all excited to see the integration of technology into the Nippers programs in the future,” says Emma. “It will give us a great opportunity to reach an even larger number of participants, which is currently over 10,500 Nippers in Victoria, and to innovate while continuing to grow our offering and reach.”
In a video made as part of Between the Flags: 100 Years of Surf Lifesaving, lifesaver Phil McGibbon said: “I’ve often felt that to encourage young people to become involved in lifesaving is one of the main reasons that lifesaving continues to operate. Every member of every club should be out there trying to recruit people, because it is not just doing the lifesaving on the beach that counts, it is doing the lifesaving off the beach.”
Lifesaver Don Marsh had another way to look at Nippers: “The other big thrill I have had is the development of younger people in the movement – not only providing them with the skills that they need to become proficient surf lifesavers, but also developing them as people and providing them with some life skills.”
If the 1,500-strong field of junior competitors at Cosy Corner is anything to go by, the Nippers program across the state is here to stay, and getting stronger and stronger by the day.
Do you need more information? Learn more about Nippers and about our daily work at LSV.