Become a Nipper

The Nippers of today

Are the Life Savers of Tomorrow

Nippers is a junior development program that introduces children aged five to 14 to Surf Life Ssaving. It’s a fun outdoors activity that uses the beach as a classroom to grow a child’s confidence, knowledge and skills in the beach environment. Not only will your child have fun and meet new friends, they will become part of an iconic organisation that has served the Australian community for over 100 years. Graduation from Nippers takes place in the U14 age group, with attainment of a Surf Rescue Certificate (SRC) and ultimately, joining a Patrol Team.

The North Coast Branch caters for over 750 ‘lifesavers in training’ across its eight clubs. They’re the future of our movement. For many children, it’s the beginning of a deep respect for our aquatic environment, a healthy lifestyle and the mateship which results from being part of the Surf Life Saving team. The skills and knowledge gained will serve them well across all platforms and stages of their life.

The Junior Development Program is designed to ensure children have fun at the beach while participating in lessons that will give them a pathway to becoming a fully rounded participant in both life saving and sport. Regular activities include beach sprint, relays, beach flags, swim, boards and wade as well as surf education and basic first aid skills.

Each club has a designated Nippers session each week, predominantly on Sunday mornings from 8:45am and running for a couple of hours. Some clubs may have optional training sessions throughout the week (eg surf swimming, boards, fitness, carnivals etc).

Nippers also offers lots of opportunities for parents to get involved with their child’s activities and/or with their local Club. You might enjoy just being there to support and encourage your child but if you do want to be actively involved, there’s plenty of ways to do so. You might like to assist the Age Managers with the activities your child is undertaking (or even become an Age Manager), take on a Water Safety role, become a coach or official, help with fundraising, cook the BBQ or even join the Senior Club.

Nipper Program & Awards

Surf Play (U6 – U7)

The key focus is on play, participation and fun in order to develop confidence in the beach environment. Beach activities are centered around fun and group participation. Water activities are limited to shallow water near the water’s edge. There is no competitive component in this age group.

Surf Aware Award (U8 – U9)

Recognize when they or someone else is in trouble and how to get help as well as being able to recognize hazardous surf conditions. Activities include wading, dolphin diving, body surfing, sand running techniques and diving for beach flags.

Surf Safe Award (U10 – U11)

Perform basic life saving skills including recognising and managing patients in need of first aid. Learn how to perform basic CPR and identify a rip. Activities include board skills, surf swimming techniques and ironman/ironwoman events.

Surf Smart Award (U12 – U13)

Recognise an at-risk person and manage first aid patients. Learn about the role of patrols and managing rips to assist in rescues. Activities include advanced board skills, development of beach sprint techniques and race strategies.

Surf Rescue Certificate (U14)

Participants work towards gaining their Surf Rescue Certificate (SRC). This is the introductory award for patrolling Surf Life Savers and allows the recipient to take part in beach patrols under the guidance of seasoned mentors. For many cadets, this is an opportunity to join patrols with parents or older siblings. It provides participants with the skills and knowledge of basic patrolling and surf awareness in order to be able to participate in life saving operations and act in the role of Water Safety Personnel.

Other Awards are available to participants once they reach a certain age, such as Resuscitation Certificate (10+), Basic Emergency Care Certificate (11+) and Radio Operator Certificate (13+).

Age Managers

An Age Managers is a member of the Club who takes responsibility for the instruction, care, safety, well-being and development of a particular age group throughout the season. They use their experience and passion for youth development to mentor Nippers and facilitate fun learning programs that encourage and develop young surf life savers. Their goal is to enrich the lives of Nippers through the delivery of surf life saving knowledge and skills in a fun and safe aquatic environment. Depending on the size of the group of juniors that Age Managers work with, there may be support from an assistant or other qualified coach/trainer who can teach specific skills.

All Age Managers have participated in the Age Managers Course and Member Screening – Working with Children Check (WWCC). We encourage all parents to join as members and take on the role of an Age Manager (or even get involved as a patrolling member).

If you’re interested in becoming an age manager, speak to your Junior Club Captain at your local Club.

Junior Surf Sports

Surf Sports is a great way for Nippers to stay fit and increase their skill level, while also being a proud representative of their Club. Beginning in the U8’s age group, the number and distance of events increases as they progress through the Junior program until the U14’s season is completed.

The North Coast Branch Juniors have a range of Carnivals across the season that provide great opportunities for interclub competition. The Branch Championships is the premier event followed by the Country, State and Aussie Championships.

Keep tuned to the Junior Events Calendar for information on these carnivals. Carnivals are generally held on Sundays with an arrival time of 6.45am for a 7.45am start. Finish time can be anywhere from 1pm to 4pm. This is dependent upon many factors such as competitor numbers, surf conditions, tide and weather.

Beach Sprint and Beach Realy (U8-U14)

Competitors race on a straight sand course of 70 metres to the finishing line. Up to ten competitors per race can start with the winner being the first person whose chest crosses the line.

In the beach relay, teams of four competitors run on lap each, exchanging a baton (usually a small length of garden hose) at the end of each leg. The final runner of a team over the finish line wins.

Beach Flags (U8-U14)

This event tests a competitor’s speed, reflexes and agility on the sand. The beach flags event requires competitors to lay on their stomachs with heads down and facing away from a series of “flags” (short pieces of garden hose) placed in the sand. On the sound of a whistle competitors stand up, turn and race to collect one of the flags. The number of flags available will generally be one less than the number of competitors involved though in some instances, if there a large number of participants, more than one person may be eliminated at a time. The competitor(s) who fail to obtain a baton are eliminated. The process repeats until there is a single winner.

Wade Race and Wade Relay Race (U8-U10)

Competitors run out to an allocated turning mark at knee depth water and then the competitors may either wade, duck dive or swim along the beach to another marker before returning to the beach to run to the finish line. The race is completed once the fourth and final team member finishes the wading course and runs up the beach to the finish line.

Surf Race and Surf Teams Race (U9-U14)

The Surf Race involves swimmers starting on the beach and then running, wading and swimming about 170 meters to sea to round a set of buoys and then return to the beach. The event concludes with a run finish to the flags placed on the beach.

The Surf Teams Race consists of four members, all of whom must complete the same course as the Surf Race. Points are allocated in order of finish placing. The team with the lowest point score is declared the winner. A modified course is used for Under 8 and 10’s

Board Race and Board Relay (U9-U14)

From the beach (standing start) each competitor enters the water with their racing board, paddles around three buoys and returns to the finish line which is 15m up the beach from the water’s edge. The winner is judged by the first competitor to cross the finish line on their feet and in contact with their board.

The relay event is the same format, contested in teams of three.

Board Rescue (U11-U14)

This two-person event comprises of a surf swimmer (patient) and a surf board paddler (rescuer). The race commences with the swimmer swimming to their allocated buoy and then signalling back to the beach for their board paddler to come out and collect them. Once the paddler reaches the swimmer, the two competitors paddle their board back to the beach and cross the finish line.

Ironman / Ironwoman (U11-U14)

First introduced in 1966, possibly the most iconic event of the modern era is the ironman race. Combining board, ski, swimming and running for an individual competitor, the event is also considered the toughest of the carnival program. Depending on the conditions, the race can take between 10 and 20 minutes to complete.

The Iron person events are conducted over a course consisting of two legs, including a swim and board. The event also includes a sprint from the end of the first leg to the start of the second. The race concludes with a beach sprint to the finish line. The order of the legs may vary and is decided by draw prior to the event.

Cameron Relay (U9-U14)

This is a relay event which is a relay equivalent of the Ironman/Ironwoman. Teams of four competitors comprising of a surf board paddler, surf swimmer and two runners compete in this relay. The order of the water legs are drawn by ballot. The first competitor enters the water, rounds the buoys and returns to shore where they tag the first runner. The first runner rounds turning flags and tags the next competitor who round the buoys and tags the last runner. The last runner runs to the finish line.

Buchanan Relay (U8-U10)

Conflicting info in different places … CHECK.
This six-person relay event comprises of two U8’s (1 wade + 1 runner), two U9’s (1 board paddler + 1 swimmer) and two U10’s (1 swimmer + 1 runner). To finish, a competitor rounds one green/yellow turning flag passes the other green/ yellow flag on the shoreward side and finishes between the two green finish flags.

March Past

March Past is one of Surf Life Saving’s original events and represents the traditional discipline of a surf lifesaver. Teams, often dressed in full length club swimming costumes, march in time to music around a set course carrying a surf reel, line and belt and follow their standard (flag) bearer. Teams march in formation, following commands, and they are judged on factors such as timing, arm and leg swing, space and dressing, body carriage and presentation.

Junior Development

The Junior Development Program is designed to gradually introduce a child to the role of a qualified Surf Life Saver and assist in patrolling the beaches. Participants will undertake various other awards and learn many facets of community service involvement.

They can continue their education and specialise in particular areas of interest which might involve anything from advanced first aid to operation of rescue water craft to personal leadership courses. To see the range of educational opportunities available, click here.

They can also continue to be involved in a variety of competition events if desired. They can be taught specialist areas of competition and compete both at a state and a national level.

Junior Camps

Each year, the North Coast Branch holds a Junior Development Camp to assist in the on-going development of our Nippers into Junior Life Savers. The program is an initiative aimed at the U13 and U14 age group to aid in the development of leadership and teamwork skills.

It is held over the course of a weekend at a specially equipped venue on the Coffs Coast. Nippers from the eight Clubs get to know each other and join together in a range of fun and challenging activities. These cover on-site activities such as commando course, archery, zorb ball, giant swing, canoeing and circus skills.

The weekend is supported by a range of speakers from the ranks of Surf Life Saving and beyond, who present the range of opportunities available to people in Surf Life Saving. A highlight is hearing from the winners of the previous year’s Junior Lifesaver of the Year Award to motivate and inspire participants. The talks are aimed at presenting a range of perspectives: from the individual, the wider community and Surf Life Saving at a state and national level.

The program is structured to:

  • Create situations that promote fun learning experiences
  • Create an awareness of current issues, pathways and opportunities
  • Promote teamwork, communication skills and networking
  • Form new friendships with other like-minded youth within the North Coast Branch
  • Develop confidence, self-esteem and empowerment in a supportive environment whilst positively recognising members
  • Provide opportunities for ideas to be exchanged
  • To gain knowledge of the structure of Surf Life Saving
  • Have fun!

Junio Lifesaver Of The Year (JLOTY)

The Junior Lifesaver of the Year Award is a way for Clubs and the North Coast Branch to recognise and reward their U14 members’ achievements in Surf Life Saving; the contributions they have made to all levels of Surf Life Saving as well as within the community.

Each Club invites applications from their U14 members to nominate for the award. This involves a written application followed by interviews with Senior Club members. Each Club then selects an outstanding male and female representative to progress through to possible selection as the North Coast Branch Junior Lifesaver of the Year.

Here, candidates undergo a further selection process with a panel of Senior Branch Members including those from the Junior Development, Life Saving and Education Committees. This involves a number of parts including a theory test, signals test, a scenario test and an interview.

The criteria for selection is based on the nominee’s achievements in the following areas:

  • Contribution to Surf Life Saving
  • Demonstration of leadership roles in club activities
  • Contribution made to the club
  • Awards received in Surf Life Saving and the community
  • Involvement in community events outside of Surf Life Saving
  • Awareness of club events and current affairs
  • Initiative applied to cub and community activities
  • Promotion of Surf Life Saving to the community
  • Attendance record at club activities
  • Encouragement of new members
  • Demonstration of surf life saving knowledge and skills

The North Coast Branch Junior Life Saver of the Year winners (one male and one female) are announced at the North Coast Junior Branch Championships. They are then sponsored to attend a Development Camp at Surf Life Saving’s Collaroy Learning Centre on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The camp brings together the finalists from all 11 Branches across NSW.

The Development Camp aims to further advance members by creating an awareness of the diversity of Branch and State activities. The focus is on personal development and goal setting based on learning through experience and fun. Participants will be involved in physical challenges, presentations and discussions, activities and scenarios that require leadership, teamwork and communication. There is also a further interview process with Senior Members of Surf Life Saving NSW to ultimately select the male and female State winner. This is the pinnacle achievement for a Nipper.

Best of all, it is an opportunity to meet young surf lifesavers from across New South Wales and be part of a fun experience.

To read about last year’s winners, click here.

What’s Next

When Nippers graduate at the age of 14, becoming a Cadet Member is an opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge of Surf Life Saving before becoming a fully-fledged member. Once they have obtained their SRC they can participate in patrols with many joining parents and older siblings on the beach. They can also compete in surf sports and take place in leadership programs run by the state office.

The Youth Engagement Program (YEP) provides youth members with a structured program to keep them motivated and involved in Surf Life Saving. The program also offers them the opportunity to explore and become involved in a range of areas within the movement which they may not have previously considered.

The Youth Engagement Program aims to:

  • Engage and expose participants to a variety of activities and pathways available within surf life saving;
  • Increase the retention of members between 13-18 years of age – assisting the transition from the junior movement into the senior movement;
  • Encourage continuous development of youth;
  • Promote increased participation and commitment of youth;
  • Increase the recognition of members through the identification of contributions and activities of 13-18-year-old members;
  • Positively promote youth as respected members and citizens within their local community.

Youth members earn points known as ‘surf creds’ for engaging in a wide range of activities offered by Surf Life Saving with a goal of gaining nationally recognised awards and a log of achievements and contributions. Participants need to engage in all areas of Surf Life Saving to gain an award level including Development, Surf Sports and Life Saving.

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