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Happy to serve on the sand

OCEAN LOVERS: Joanna Charles, Zoe Burgess, Lilli Smyth, Koby Nolan, Rachael Smyth, Darcy Ryan and Ollie Smyth from Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club at Park Beach.
OCEAN LOVERS: Joanna Charles, Zoe Burgess, Lilli Smyth, Koby Nolan, Rachael Smyth, Darcy Ryan and Ollie Smyth from Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club at Park Beach.

"THANK you for watching over us," a woman said to a couple of teenage surf lifesavers, as she walked to the water for a swim.

Mikaela Hicks and Zara Beckett, from the Coffs Harbour Surf Lifesaving Club (CHSLSC), smiled back, telling the Advocate feedback like that made them feel inspired to do more for the community.

Couple this community spirit with a sense of camaraderie and you have the key foundations of surf life saving clubs.

CHSLSC director of surf lifesaving Rachael Smyth said these sentiments came naturally to the club, where you have "different people from all walks of life in the same place for a common purpose".

Rachael is a third generation surf lifesaver, her dad the late Chris 'Simmo' Simpson loved the ocean, was a keen water sports competitor and a sponsor of surf lifesaving.

"Surf clubs were a big part of dad's life. I've been around the ocean since I was a kid," Rachael said.

"I was conscious of my kids having the same exposure, along with the healthy lifestyle that goes with it. It's incredibly worthwhile."

Rachael, a mother of six, has been on the CHSLSC board for eight years and said, "this is my passion. I've always been involved, whether doing water safety, patrolling or training".

Some may be familiar with the annual Hugo Smyth Memorial Classic, a surf carnival which has been running for seven years.

Hugo was Rachael's youngest child, who drowned in a home pool in 2006, when he was two.

She said despite being water people and being vigilant, the tragedy still occurred.

"It doesn't matter where it happens - ocean, creek or pool - drownings are silent and quick.

"Other than family, the biggest factor that got us through was the surf club."

For the Smyth family, losing Hugo reaffirmed the importance of spreading the water safety message and promoting lifesaving as a skill for life.

Rachael said beyond learning surf skills, club members learnt skills which could be transferred to everyday life. After all, you never know when you may need to give CPR.

"People can join the club whenever they like, it's open to everyone."

"We have a strong membership of 13- to 18-year-olds, who are good kids patrolling the beaches and keeping people safe.

"They may start at 8.30am and go to four or 5pm. They could be down at the skatepark but instead they are volunteering their time, putting back into the community and using their skills."

Topics:  beaches coffs harbour surf life saving club flag surf lifesaving



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