Recently nominated for a Pride of Australia award, Killcare Surf Lifesaving Club lifesaver Jennifer Webb’s years of Nippers training gave her the confidence and skills to save a life last Easter Monday.
The 16-year-old had been on patrol all day, under conditions that required constant surveillance of the flagged area. ‘Swimming not advised’ signs had been posted on the beach to ensure that parents remained vigilant of their children, and 17 preventative actions were made during the day.
A group of young men aged 18 to 22 were playing a friendly soccer game north of the flagged area. When their ball went into the water at one point, a 22-year-old male, who later admitted he had no swimming ability, dashed into the water to retrieve it, unwittingly entering a flash rip. Another male from the group with some swimming ability went in after him and soon found himself in trouble as well.
Jennifer was on her fourth straight day of patrol on two beaches over Easter. Springing into action, she used the rip to her advantage and was past the break in a manner that a member of the public later described as lightning speed.
“The victim had been howling with terror between waves and had used the last of his energy,” said club publicity officer, Craig Sheppard.
“IN FACT HE LATER SAID HE HAD GIVEN UP, WHEN ANOTHER SET OF WAVES ARRIVED, SENDING HIM UNDER.”
Retrieving the man from under water by his hair and with the assistance of a nearby surfer, Jennifer secured the tube around him. They were now around 80m from shore, but, thanks
to some assistance from an off-duty surf lifesaver, she was able to grab his board and ride the next set of waves in with the patient. Once on shore, he was quickly given oxygen therapy.
“Killcare has fewer rescues but when we do, they’re serious,” said Craig. “Easter Monday was a day 16-year-old Jennifer displayed bravery and acted without hesitation. She demonstrated a degree
of athleticism and decisiveness that truly saved a life. It is certain that without her actions, the patient would have drowned.”
Families gathered on the beach over three Saturdays, full of smiles and enthusiasm, to see their children learn and develop their confidence in the sun, surf and sand.
The children, aged 5-14 years, were buddied with a member of the club to complete games and training. Bundaberg SLSC junior activities coordinator, Janine Lester explains: ‘There are flags, obstacle courses, parachute games, wading games and opportunities to learn surf skills on a modified nipper board.’
With the loud cheers from their families, the participants navigated the activities, with the help of their buddy.
Janine Lester said Seahorse Nippers is quite similar to many other junior surf lifesaving programs in the way it runs.
‘It’s all about inclusion and catering for each child’s individual needs in assisting them to participate fully in the activities,’ she said.
Although the goal of the program is to promote the important message of water safety skills, there was no shortage of laughter, fun and enjoyment during the activities.
The program has been launched at Elliot Heads SLSC, with Noosa Heads SLSC providing invaluable support in the lead up to the program’s delivery. Noosa Heads SLSC has the biggest Seahorse Nippers program in Queensland, catering for approximately 35 children, with Seahorse Nippers providing one of the many ways the club connects with the local community. The club provided guidance and assistance to see the program run successfully at Elliot Heads, and hopes to see the program develop further over time.
Nippers is the ideal way for kids to foster their love of the outdoors, all while meeting new friends and learning to save lives. Over time, our Nippers gain confidence in the water and learn to identify rips and hazards at the beach. As they progress they will also learn lifesaving skills such as surf rescue and CPR. At 13, Nippers are eligible to complete their Surf Rescue Certificate and start patrolling with Senior Lifesavers.
It’s easy to find your nearest Nippers program. Click here to find your nearest club.