For us sunkissed Mid North Coasters, spoilt by sandy utopias and exquisite blue skies, today was not really what you’d call a good day for the beach.
Wild weather meant most beaches on our coast had to be closed for the last day of school holidays.
But try telling that to the hordes of kids who’ve been waiting with bated breath for this day since Autumn slinked in.
Over 100 zealous pink-bibbed tykes pounded the shore at Main Beach, Nambucca Heads, today for the opener of the 2018/19 Nippers season – a “steady increase” on last season’s numbers.
Not foul weather, nor a plague of blue bottles, could deter them from their flag races and dodgeball shenanigans.
Even young Fletcher Cork, who admittedly usually prefers his inside play time, was won over by the flag sprints which he said he “almost won”.
And the swarm of stingers, which had beached themselves en masse near the clubhouse, served as the perfect point to kickstart the club’s ocean awareness education program.
Almost-seven-year-old Isabella Alder has been looking forward to the season for ages and keenly absorbed the bluebottle lesson.
“Bluebottles are this big [indicating a 50 cent piece-sized measurement with her fingers]. But they have long tails that wrap around your legs and they sting you. I learnt today not to step on them,” she said.
Club chairman Keith Williams said one of the program’s first goals is to ensure the whippersnapper nippers learn how to identify dangers in the surf like rocks, rips and stingers.
“Our main goals are for the kids to enjoy themselves, and to provide an education in being sunsmart, and reading the ocean,” he said.
“They first learn how to look after themselves. And the ultimate goal is to have them going on to become lifesavers, where they’ll look after everyone else.
“Eventually, they’ll be able to spot a rip just from looking at the waves. And when they move into competitions, they’ll learn how to use a rip to their advantage at a surf carnival.”
When the weather fines up, plucky paddlers will take on the ‘proficiency in the ocean’ test, which requires them to safely swim to specified distances from shore in order to pass.
Those kids who excel in surf competitions will head to the Country Championships in Kingscliff in February
But there’ll also be stiff competition in March at the Branch Championships in Sawtell, where Nippers compete in swimming and paddle board races, flag sprints and Iron Man comps.
One to look out for is Daniel Williams, fresh from a development camp down in Narrabeen.
Daniel was one of four chosen from the North Coast Nippers branch to participate in the exclusive camp, which honed the skills of future champions and introduced them to a range of topics like nutrition and drugs in sport, new skill techniques, pilates and building core strength, and a range of sports psychology techniques like breath awareness, mindfulness and goal-writing.
But today, down at Main, it was all about fun.
And the sun even made a cameo just in time for the barbecue lunch.