Young lifesaver’s heroic rescue shines light on Nippers program

Layla Pretorius – a Nipper from Williamstown Swimming and Life Saving Club (SLSC) – has been recognised as an Everyday Lifesaver for her courageous rescue of a teenager at risk of drowning late last year. 
Awarded to people who have used their lifesaving and water safety skills to perform a significant res

cue, at just 11 years old, Layla is one of the youngest Everyday Lifesavers to date.

While playing in the shallows at Williamstown, Layla heard a mother screaming – her son had drifted past the rocks and fallen out of his kayak, unable to get back in.

Immediately recognising the seriousness of the situation, Layla paddled out to the boy on her Nippers board, instructing him to hold the strap and kick while she paddled back into shore.

The boy was reunited with his mother and thankfully, nobody was injured.

During a recent ceremony to recognise Layla’s heroic rescue at Williamstown SLSC, Club President Paul Sullivan said Layla’s actions were not only a testament to her courage, but also the benefits of the Nippers program.

“We couldn’t be prouder to have Layla at our club,” he said. “She’s an incredible example of the lifesaving community and what we strive for through the Nippers program.

“Nippers is about getting kids comfortable and familiar with the beach environment through safe and fun activities. We’re making little lifesavers while the kids are busy having fun.”

During a horror year when 45 people have lost their lives in Victorian waters – 13 of which were under the age of 14 – Mr Sullivan said programs such as Nippers were more important than ever before.

“It’s unimaginable to think what the poor families who have lost children to drowning are going through, which is why we’re so passionate about building water literacy in young people through Nippers,” Mr Sullivan said.

According to Life Saving Victoria Director Lifesaving Services Kane Treloar, programs like Nippers and other learn to swim initiatives result in better, lifelong water safety outcomes – but consistency is key.

“An estimated 145,000 kids missed out on swimming lessons during lockdown, amassing to over five million missed lessons in 2020, on top of all the lost Nippers classes across the state,” he said.

“If you haven’t already booked your kids back into Nippers or swim school post-lockdown, let Layla’s story be a timely reminder of how critical it is to build these life skills, and make sure you head back in each week – the kids love it.”

Despite this, Mr Treloar said swimming and Nippers training was no substitution for supervision.

“Twenty seconds is all it takes for a child to drown in just a few centimetres of water, so please keep under fives in arm’s reach and under 10s in eyesight around water at all times,” he said.

“If you’re heading to the beach, seek out those patrolled locations and swim between the red and yellow flags during patrolled times where lifesavers can keep you safe.”

As for Layla, she says it feels “amazing” to have saved someone’s life. “I’ve been a Nipper since I was five, so I knew what to do,” she said. “It wasn’t scary for me.”

“Nippers lets me spend time with my friends at the beach and I love it,” said Miss Pretorius.

To sign up a Nipper, speak with your local lifesaving club or head to the Life Saving Victoria website for more information.


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