The Armidale School may be 200km inland, but 20 Year 11 students are now qualified for surf patrol after being presented with surf bronze medallions this morning (9 February), recognising their completion of a year-long Year 11 Activities program.
In order to attain their qualifications, the students learn rescue techniques, complete a fitness test and be competent in resuscitation and defibrillation techniques. They hit the beach on several days in Terms 1 and 3 each year and spend the winter months preparing for the theoretical component of the course and revising in the TAS indoor pool, before spending all of Activities Week in November at Sawtell Surf Life Saving Club, which has partnered TAS in the program for the past 19 years. Special recognition was given to Inverell boy Brent Rees, named named the TAS Iron Man for his performance and efforts in and out of the water in 2015.
“The challenge of it is one reason why it is so popular for our students, most of whom are from rural or regional areas; they’re swimming in open water, there’s a fear of sharks, they can’t stand on the bottom,” Surf Life coordinator Mr Jim Pennington said.
“Not only do they gain an understanding of the ocean, but also learn new skills and appreciate and develop a sense of service – which last year, was sandbagging to support the dunes in front of the clubhouse.”
With TAS now co-ed, a number of Year 11 girls will be part of this year’s program.
“Sawtell is the first surf club in NSW to have a female president and has an even gender split of members, so they are looking forward to TAS taking girls down there for the first time this year,” he said.
Those partaking this year will be part of a group from the school to compete in the 2km Coffs Harbour Ocean Swim, in April. TAS teachers joining Mr Pennington this year will be Ms Genevieve Chick, a former member of both Avalon and Byron Bay surf life saving clubs, and Mr Mike Ball, also a surf bronze medallion holder.
Mr Pennington said the course would not be possible without the great support of Sawtell SLSC, particularly club stalwart Dennis Meagher, who visited the school to present the students with their medallions at a school assembly.
Surf life saving commenced at TAS in 1967, as the service component for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme introduced at the school earlier that year. Originally based at Nambucca and then Yamba, for the past 19 years the program has been in run in conjunction with the Sawtell Surf Life Saving Club.