Editor's notes: Sport Access Foundation's founder Katie Kelly OAM had the opportunity to meet the incredibly passionate Nick Marshall, who is the Founder of the Albatross Nippers Club at Nobbys Club. Their program caters for children of all various abilities and challenges. It was in the words of Katie "one of the most incredible mornings, to watch the kids with a range of physical and intellectual challenges. They were rolling in the sand, running, swimming and importantly simply doing what most Australian children do, and that is, enjoying our great Australian sun and surf."
We asked Nick to share more about the Albatross Club and how we can all be safe and inclusive on our beaches.
It’s hard to imagine growing up in Australia during summer and not having the beach available to cool down and cool off. Or not having an opportunity to access the beach safely and take what so many Australians take for granted. But for so many people living with disabilities this is in fact a reality.
Over the last 10 years local beachside councils and governments have made a more conscious effort to make beaches accessible and disability friendly. Such things as improving the changing facilities to allow wheelchairs not just to access the toilets but also for transfers, or to shower and change are a start. As well as creating more available accessible parking and of course, purchasing beach matting and beach wheelchairs so that accessing the water from the carpark us easier.
But that well-worn movie line of “if you build it, they will come”, isn’t all that is needed. Sometimes just providing the equipment isn’t enough. The daunting prospect of trying something new, in a foreign environment away from the normal routine can be difficult.
This is where the Albatross Nippers has come in to fill a void. Like any nipper program, its design is to allow families to bring their young children to the beach, and allow them to learn about beach safety and access, and fuel the love of the outdoors and ocean.
Most parents want to walk away from Nippers knowing their child is safe in the ocean and that they know where it is safe to swim and enjoy the beach.
The Albatross nippers is exactly the same, except that it caters to children with special needs and disabilities. It’s not run at a special time, on a special day, it’s run within the standard nipper Sunday program at Nobbys Beach surf lifesaving club once a month as well as Tallebudgera and Southport surf lifesaving clubs sporadically throughout the summer season.
The program has a strong community connection and engagement focus, where children can experience nippers and the beach alongside their similar aged peers. They can learn about beach safety and swimming in between the red and yellow flags, as well as just develop that life long love of the ocean.
Further to that however families with children with special needs have an opportunity to learn about different beaches, where the appropriate car parks are, where to access the beach matting and the beach wheelchair and most importantly, who are the friendly faces and surf lifesavers they can ask if they need assistance.
The Albatross Nippers rotate through the standard nipper activities, similar to any group on a nipper Sunday, albeit some activities do need to be modified. The program relies heavily on volunteers and while parents are encouraged to participate to make the experience one of education for them as well, each Albatross nipper is accompanied by a trained surf lifesaver as well as buddied up with a similar aged nipper. Whether they’re running, rolling, swimming, wading or surfing, the day is about fun in the sun with their friends, after all, that’s what Nippers should be.
Assistant Professor Nick Marshall
Creator of the Albatross Nippers Inc. (Registered Charity for Children with Special Needs)
Head Coach Nobbys Beach Surf Lifesaving Club
For more information about the Albatross Nippers, please click the button below to go to their Facebook page.
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