By Martin Lenehan
Summer in Australia means beaches, barbecues, sun, surf and sand – and the comforting sight of a yellow army of lifesavers.
More than 45,000 volunteers will raise the red and yellow flags to keep swimmers safe this summer.
At Bronte beach, in Sydney’s east, Luke McLellan, who’s 13, will be on patrol. Luke joined Nippers when he was seven and has just completed his surf rescue certificate.
“I love being down at the club with my friends and I also love being part of a club that is dedicated to saving lives,” says Luke.
What is Nippers?
It’s a program that teaches kids about surf awareness and safety, being Sunsmart, what a lifesaver is and what they do. You learn about the surf, have flag races and beach sprints, and swim and board events. You can join when you’re five.
“I’m a club captain at Bronte which means I have to show leadership and help out more and represent the Nippers.
“I do around six hours a week in my squad at UNSW and I like doing ocean swims. I did a two-kilometre swim from Bondi to Bronte on the first weekend in December and my time was 26 minutes, which put me in the top 10 for under-16s.”
Luke’s mum, Louela, says: “We really enjoy being part of a club that is dedicated to saving lives.
“Two years ago we were down at Coogee and Luke and a mate were playing in the sand and then I looked around and they were in the water making hand signals to the lifesavers.
“They had noticed a man nearly drowning and they went to help him, and it made me so proud that Luke knew what to do to alert lifesavers to help that man.”
Learn about rips
Luke’s advice for anyone new to the beach is to stay between the flags and to learn about rips.
“Rip education is very important because that’s what brings people off the sand banks and sweeps them away,” he says.
“It’s good to know how to spot a rip and avoid it if you’re not a very good swimmer.”