Shark fears nipped in the bud as young life­savers sign up

The West Australian - - NEWS - Claire Tyrrell

Young­sters are de­fy­ing their fears to take to the wa­ter in droves.

WA surf clubs are re­port­ing an in­crease in nip­per num­bers as the new sea­son kicks off, af­ter a de­cline in re­cent years that many put down to a fear of sharks.

Surf Life Sav­ing WA fig­ures show the in­take of nip­pers rose 8 per cent in 2017-18, af­ter a 6 per cent fall in the pre­vi­ous sea­son and a 4 per cent fall the year be­fore.

At North Cottes­loe Life Sav­ing Club, more than 80 new mem­bers signed up for nip­pers and hun­dreds more are con­tin­u­ing the pro­gram. As the club cel­e­brates 100 years to­day, cen­te­nary com­mit­tee chair­woman Kelly Moss said it was great to see new gen­er­a­tions come through.

“Nip­pers is an amaz­ing way to bring peo­ple back to the club,” she said. “Par­ents who might have lost touch with the club are com­ing back to bring their kids.” Ms Moss said that while sharks were in the back of peo­ple’s minds, they did not de­ter young swim­mers from nav­i­gat­ing the surf.

“Shark bar­ri­ers and the wa­ter safety we pro­vide while our nip­pers are in the wa­ter give peo­ple peace of mind,” she said.

“We wouldn’t put kids in the wa­ter when there’s risk.”

North Cottes­loe nip­per num­bers re­mained steady — at about 480, aged 5 to 13 — over the past two sea­sons and 82 new nip­pers signed up to the club last week­end. Nip­per train­ing across the State starts this week­end.

Pic­ture: Ian Munro

Nip­pers ready for the new sea­son.

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