The days are getting warmer and that can only mean one thing for the thousands of beach-going families in Port Stephens: it's time to dust off the surf lifesaving gear, sign up for nippers and learn about water safety.
This Saturday, September 26, marks the official start to the 2019-20 surf season, seeing the patrol flags go up at Birubi, One Mile and Fingal beaches, however, COVID-19 has placed the beginning of surf club activities and nippers on hold for now.
Jackie Irving, publicity officer for Anna Bay-based Birubi Point Surf Lifesaving Club, said that a start date for nippers was expected to be announced soon.
"But we are taking registrations online and we are hoping to increase our numbers. We have kept our fees to just $65," she said.
In addition to water safety, nippers provides girls and boys aged 5 to 14 valuable surf education, confidence in the water, physical activity and self confidence.
"And the more kids we can register the more fun it is for the kids competing in events such as flags, sprints and boards," Irving said.
The club has also installed COVID-safe protocols for the upcoming season for clubhouse and beach/water events.
Chief training officer Steve Fogwill said that bronze medallion and award member courses would be run similar to previous seasons.
"We have a very strong training program at Birubi with many of our nippers going through to do their bronze medallion and resuscitation training," said Fogwill, who comes with 50 years of experience in the fields of teaching, training and mentoring.
"The skills the kids learn through these courses are invaluable. They learn how to act responsibly in public, it gives them a standard of behaviour they have to adhere to and they develop a set of skills which they can use for future jobs."
Additionally, the club runs First Aid, advanced resuscitation, spinal management and courses for IRB drivers and crew. A silver medal aquatic rescue special course in retrieval is also available.
A new committee was voted in at the Birubi club's recent annual general meeting. Norm Barnes was voted president, Helen Ratcliffe treasurer and Natalie Zagninski secretary.