Lifesavers bring the surf to the city to educate kids these holidays

Lifesavers are bringing the surf to the city this summer as part of a concerted effort to educate young children about beach and water safety.

Surf Life Saving Queensland’s (SLSQ) award-winning Little Lifesavers initiative has educated thousands of children across the state since its launch in 1993, and returns to Brisbane’s South Bank for two week-long programs in January.

For Rhian Persal of Holland Park, this will be the fifth year her kids have taken part in the summer holiday program at South Bank.

“We’ve loved coming along each year. We’d love to go down the coast, but really, lives are quite busy between everything, so for city kids, it’s the perfect way to introduce them to the beach life in a convenient way,” Mrs Persal said.

“I really like them to be outdoors and active. The program is early in the day before it gets super hot, so they’re not in the intense sun in the middle of the day.”

Eldest sibling Claudia, 11, has been participating in the program since she was six years old and is excited for the upcoming session in January.

“I like the community of it and I like how it’s challenging but really fun and you can learn new things. I’ve made new friends in different years and I get to do swimming, one of my favourite sports. It’s nice knowing that if you continue with it one day it could be helping people,” Claudia said.

“I enjoy it and it’s close to home and it’s something everyone can do. There’s also a little bit of an element of competition involved, which is fun.”

Henry, 9, said his favourite aspect of the program was beach flags, and 6-year-old Helena is just happy having fun and making friends.

“I love it because it’s fun! We get to swim and paddle on boards. I like making friends too,” Helena said.

The Little Lifesavers program is designed to be an entertaining and educational way to introduce young children aged five to 11 to some of the basic principles of surf safety.

“It’s great that I can take all of the kids to the same place; they’re varied ages but it works for all of them. There aren’t necessarily a lot of activities where you can take children of different sexes and different ages and go that’s your solution,” Mrs Persal said.

“I can only say what a great, healthy way for your kids to have fun in Brisbane’s summer.”

SLSQ community awareness manager Helen Hallett said the program sees young children participate in a range of games, sports and educational activities which are all designed to slowly build up their confidence in the water.

“A lot of children who live on and around the beach learn about surf safety from a young age, but that’s not necessarily the case here in Brisbane,” Mrs Hallett said.

“Even if kids only go to the beach once or twice a year, it’s still important they have at least a basic understanding of surf safety and some of the steps they can take to keep out of trouble in the water.

“Little Lifesavers is designed to ensure that kids have fun in the water over their school holidays but, at the same time, we look to introduce them to some of the basics of beach safety through the guidance of qualified surf lifesavers,” she said.

“We also look to educate them about basic rescue techniques and what to do if they find themselves in trouble while swimming; if they get nothing else out of the program, these are skills they’ll have for life.

“Surf safety is something that every child should learn, regardless of whether they go to the beach once a day or once a year,” she said.

The next available programs for youngsters aged five to 11 will be held over two four-day sessions from 4-8 and 11-15 January 2016. For further information about the Little Lifesavers program, or to enroll, please contact Sarah Hesse via email on littlelifesavers@lifesaving.com.au.

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