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February 9, 2010 – 2:49 am | 5 Comments

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Nippers for Newbies

Submitted by on March 17, 2010 – 2:33 pm126 Comments
Nippers for Newbies

For getting out and about in the community, sampling a slice of Aussie culture and introducing your kids to sport and exercise, Sydney Newbie reckons Nippers is an absolute treasure.

The Nippers season is over. The good news is that the car won’t be a sandpit on wheels. The downside is that we won’t be kissed by early morning coastal breezes nor warmed by the rising sun zapping through our factor 30+ sunblock.

As Sydney newcomers, the 2009-2010 season was our first experience of Nippers, a community-based program that teaches beach awareness to children from 4 to 12. You have to be quick to enroll when registration opens in September because it is extremely popular with its surf lifesaving-style activities – flag racing, boogie boarding, board paddling and beach & obstacle racing.

We were roundly castigated by Aussies when we told them we had signed up at Balmoral Beach, the closest beach club to us. “Balmoral?! That’s for wimps! There’s no surf at Balmoral!”

“He’s only 5 years old! That suits us just fine,” we’d say. “Maybe we can join Manly in a few years when he’s better equipped to handle 2-metre swells, fend off hammerheads and steer clear of stingrays.”

Ha! It may even be next season judging by his rate of progress. His boogie boarding improved out of sight, as did his queue-jumping techniques to gain more board time. His flag racing fortunes also brightened as his start line up-and-at-’em became quicker.

That’s one of the good aspects about Nippers – it does promote competition. The tug of war produced a winning team, the obstacle course – with jumps and tunnels – was run as a relay race between 3 or 4 teams and the flag racing blitzed through several rounds before the sole winner emerged victorious.

The competition was healthy, but not once did we hear anything other than polite applause and supportive voices from the sidelines. Admittedly, it’s an upmarket crowd, but the relaxed Sunday morning ambience certainly plays a part – takeaway coffee in one hand and dog lead in the other as conversation centres around the Balmoral parking meter ‘vandal’…up to tricks that can’t be condoned, but can certainly be appreciated.

You also have a Sunday paper under one arm, but only use it to swat the odd bug or fly. Because all the kids look the same with their hair hidden under their nipper caps, it pays to  keep tabs on your child as you become one with the parent pack that follows the kids from activity to activity.

Next year we might get even closer to the action as a volunteer. They have special red rashies (which I’m sure could be cleared up with some ointment) and enjoy the feeling of being mobbed as they hand out lollies at session’s end. It didn’t matter if they were jubes, snakes, sours or all-sorts, those lollies were always contaminated with sand and gritty to eat…but they were plundered and enjoyed regardless.

We’ll be back next season because it’s a fun family activity and a great motivation for seizing the day.

But mainly it’s about building on the increasing confidence of our son in the water and, in terms of development, we’re proud parents…despite joining the paddling pool of surf beaches.

http://www.surflifesavingsydney.com.au/Nippers

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