Never too old to join a surf club


By Tania Phillips

Age is no barrier to joining a surf lifesaving club according to Yeppoon’s Jeff Blackburn.

Jeff who grew up in Rockhampton and now lives in Yeppoon has been member of the club for most of his life starting as a Nipper and now is more involved than ever.

He is a life member of the club and has always been associated with the club, but now later in life he has been going down to help with Nippers and is still competing in some surf carnivals with the masters.

“Just recently I’ve been wanting to put back effort into the Nippers,” he said.

“I suppose a lot of traditional skills have been lost. So I go down and coach the kids which is great.

“I go down every Friday afternoon, I coach the kids once a week and then most Sunday’s for the past couple of years I’ve gone down and helped out with the Nipper days on Sunday as well.”

He gets a kick out of helping the kids but his love of Surf Lifesaving goes back a long way.

“My brother, who is four years older, was learning to swim and I don’t know whether I was as well, but the guy who was doing the swimming lessons back in 1969, got Nippers started,” Jeff said.

“He was a life saver, so he was in the senior part of the club, and a lady by the name of Joan Lennox she started Nippers up on the 5th of October 1969. Mum brought my brother and I down to Lifesavers, they were attracting younger members, I just toddled along, I couldn’t start Nippers until I was six or seven years old. I just grew up with it, I was into winter sports as well but swimming and lifesaving was important. I did all my bronze medallions, advanced resuscitation, a lot of awards that you achieve within the club and I competed at State and National titles. I met my wife at the lifesavers – she was a new recruit, that I started flirting with. It’s been a real family affair because mum and dad were heavily involved with the nipper until we grew up and they feel away from it.

“My boys were in Nippers but they never went through to the senior sides of lifesavers.

“I think we’re probably one of the first families to have three generations (that was in the Nippers). There was another family, the Cummings family, they’ve done better than us, they’ve had three generations who have done beach patrol, which I reckon is bloody cool. Bill and Kate Cummings are the mum and dad, they held the presidents and secretary’s role, they also did patrols as did their kids and now their grand kids are coming through, still doing patrols and competing which is really great.

“I grew up with a lot of great guys, we’re still mates now, still catch up. They’re in other surf clubs so if you away you see them, it’s a good atmosphere.”

While being a member of a surf club can really become a family affair, it is never too late to join and even if you’re over 50 there are still roles.

“There is a program that started up through lifesaving called Silver Salties, we are trying to start it here,” he said.

Silver Salties is a participation program for older Australians (65+ years) at participating surf lifesaving clubs throughout Australia promoting physical activity, social connections, and involvement in the surf lifesaving community.

Silver Salties is managed by Surf Life Saving Australia, coordinated by State Centres, and delivered by participating surf lifesaving clubs.

The programs include popular active recreational pursuits, as well as traditional surf lifesaving activities.

Jeff said for those wanting to get involved they can contact the club through their website and socials.

“We are looking to get the Silver Salties program up and running, we are still in the early days of it,” he said.

The club also welcomes associate members. There is a place for all including those with disabilities who may not be able to patrol but still be an active member with radio courses available.

“If they can’t get down on the beach to help out there are other things they can do to help the club,” he said.

“’Speaking to some of the other clubs, with the Silver Salties program they now have three or four older people coming down at the weekend to help out with the barbies. There are a couple of silver salties who have joined and done their gold medallions and become a fully patrolling member. Gone are the days when you have to be a really good swimmer, there is that much rescue equipment that is machinery driven, there are jet skis, there are IRBs, roles on the beach, they don’t have to be that elite swimmer they had to be years ago.”

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