Surf Life Saving NSW’s Beach to Bush program has concluded for another year in which close to 10,000 primary school kids from across the state’s west got a taste of the beach.
In what has now become Surf Life Saving’s largest and most significant educational initiative, sixteen of the state’s finest surf life savers were involved in seven regional tours visiting 55 primary schools across NSW in areas such as the Riverina, New England and the northern tablelands.
With research suggesting that 50 per cent of people rescued from the surf live more than 50km from the beach, the program aims to teach kids from the bush in a fun, interactive and informative manner all about surf and water safety such as swimming between the red and yellow flags, identifying sea creatures and how to spot a rip.
The program wouldn’t be as successful without the dedication and passion of the volunteer surf life savers who run the tours. With real life savers sharing their real stories and experiences of the beach, the kids are able to come away with important surf safety information helping them to safely enjoy their next trip to the beach.
This year our volunteer life savers hailed from surf clubs all over the state including Port Macquarie, Coogee, Ocean Beach, Dee Why, North Steyne, Cooks Hill, Queenscliff, Austinmer and Cape Hawke SLSCs. Coogee surf life saver, Doug Hawkins, who was part of the Riverina tour around Albury, says the program is such an important project that extends beyond just the kids who attend on the day.
‘With so many of the students indicating that they’ll be visiting beaches up and down the coast for summer, this program will undoubtedly save lives. Students will now go home and talk to their friends and family about what they’ve learnt and the message will spread.
‘Most of the things we talk about are simple topics and as life savers all of this stuff is second nature, but some kids have simply never been exposed to it and that’s what makes this program so special,’ said Mr Hawkins.
Ocean Beach life saver, Peter Lambeth, who visited schools in the Upper Hunter, has been involved with the program with his wife and daughter for two years and says he loves being a part of it.
‘The biggest feeling I get after leaving a school is the realisation that the kids really had a fun time and enjoyed themselves. When you have kids coming up to you afterwards in the playground asking you more questions about the beach you realise they definitely got something positive out of the program and that’s really rewarding.’
The Beach to Bush Program is the largest and most innovative surf safety education program in Australia, having reached more than 260,000 primary school students since it began in 1994.