Nippers is a wonderful Australian summer initiative that educates kids on surf safety in a safe and fun environment. This summer, two local families helped pioneer the launch of an awesome all-abilities program at Balmoral Beach to give every child the opportunity to enjoy the ocean.
Nippers – A Truly Aussie Institution
Balmoral Nippers is an independent program (not affiliated with any Surf Life Saving Clubs) run by volunteers for families to enjoy the beach and learn the basics of surf life-saving. It’s a summer program running on Sunday mornings on Edwards Beach at Balmoral, run in partnership with the Balmoral Beach Club and Mosman Council.
The program is for children aged 4 to 12. Groups are broken down by age and gender, with each group having an age manager who runs the events with the help of parents.
The Launch of Sharkies: The Additional Needs Program for Balmoral Nippers
The regular program has, by and large, been mainstream. However, a visit by a special friend of parent volunteers, Artarmon’s Al Robertson and Chatswood’s Dan Barber, set in motion a wonderful new program – an amazing Nippers’ All-Abilities program.
As Dan – a Nippers volunteer for the past six years – explains:
“We were at the beach for one of our usual Nippers sessions. Al and I both had daughters in the program, Ruby and Isabelle. Ruby’s sister, Maggie, who has some additional needs, was also there with their mum, Michelle.
“During one of the skills events – Flags – Michelle did a test run with Maggie and we saw a huge smile on Maggie’s face. Isabelle saw that and said, ‘It’s not really fair that Maggie can’t train with us’.”
The realisation got everyone considering how an additional needs program could work.
After consultation with Balmoral Nippers management, who were extremely supportive of the idea, a framework for additional needs participation was developed.
Sharkies Nippers is a modified and structured Additional Needs Program (which runs in conjunction with the Balmoral Nippers program), for children aged 6-11 with additional needs to:
- Foster an inclusive environment for all abilities
- Improve safety skills and awareness on the beach and in the water
- Learn the basics of surf life-saving
- Have fun, make friends and get fit!
Each group is assigned a Water Safety Officer and each Sharkies child must have one-on-one assistance from a parent or guardian. But apart from that, the program is run almost exactly the same way as the standard one.
“So we officially kicked things off in 2020,” explains Al. “We’ve got about 12 or 13 families registered and most of them come down every single week.
“There’s just one thing, though, that we’re particularly careful of and that has to do with water confidence and experience. In the full program, the kids get on boards and go out a long way. In the all-abilities program, we keep the kids closer to shore and in a more controlled environment.”
If you’re a parent who’s interested in the amazing Nipper’s all-abilities program, it’s important to know that one-to-one parent supervision is mandatory. Having said that, there are also a number of volunteers helping out, including Dan’s daughter, Isabelle and Al’s daughter, Ruby.
If this is something you’d love for your young ones, then sign them up to the program and spread the word!
Dan hopes that once the numbers increase, they’ll be able to cater to different age groups too.
“At the end of the day, we want all of our children to be safe at the beach and have fun at the same time!”
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