Carnival time for nippers
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
TROUBLE with the tides put an early dampener on the season's first branch carnival for the area's junior surf life saving clubs but a quick move from Park Beach to the Jetty saw 800 kids from the region have a real crack on a gorgeous Sunday to go to the beach. Yesterday's meeting also doubled as the branch's selection trials which meant that the standard of the competition was more intense than usual. One man who was revelling in the numbers and the conditions yesterday as the nippers went through their paces was Mark Beavis who has spent the past four years as the junior president of North Coast branch. Looking over the beach at the large crowd of volunteers, parents and competitors gathered along Jetty Beach, Beavis admits that his 36 year long involvement with surf life saving shows few signs of ending soon. "It's grown a bit the sport but it's pretty stable," he said of the number of competitors at yesterday's carnival. "There's 800 kids here that are going to know how to swim in the surf and you know what they're doing and we roll over probably about 50 to 60 kids each year so it's an ongoing program." Making up the eight clubs involved yesterday were Minnie Waters, Red Rock, Woolgoolga, Coffs Harbour, Sawtell, North Beach, Urunga and Nambucca Heads. Being a product of the nippers himself, Beavis thinks there aren't many better things that today's kids can do than get involved in junior surf life saving. "The kids learn surf skills and we teach them community involvement," he said. "You can't take out if you're not going to put in. "But it's mostly surf skills so they can hopefully go on and be lifesavers, if not, they still know how to swim in the surf." While the older competitors were trying hard in the longboard and ironman events, it's the education process of children new to the sport that Beavis likes to see, especially the younger ones in the seven or eight year old age bracket. "It's just fun mostly at that stage and we teach them without it being taught," he said. "By that I mean instead of jamming it down their throat, we'll throw a rock in the water and they dive in and get it and bring it back up. "If they can't do that at the beginning of the season, when it's done we know that they can dive under under the water. "It's not so much board work when they're little, like the older kids are doing today, but it's basically just to get them used to the water and know that it's not going to hurt them so they're not scared of it, and then we build on that. "It's a long process that runs from 6s to 14s before they're finished and there's a structured Surf Education program as we go along." While yesterday was all about the competition and the achievements and joys that come with it for those having a go, Beavis like so many other hard working people in the sport, is always trying to look at the bigger picture of creating good surf life saving clubs right across the area he's responsible for. "I know I muck around a lot but you've got to foster the smaller clubs so they become bigger and better in competition and in life saving," he explained. "You've got to try and build the little clubs because you don't want one super club, you want a strong competition base because if it all comes to only one club then you lose it, so we try and keep it as even as you can."