Surf to School Pilot South Island

Posted by Matt Warren on Monday, February 18, 2013

Living in non-coastal areas will no longer be a disadvantage to children in the South Island when Surf Lifeguards bring the beach to them, thanks to the support of Youthtown.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) is piloting the Surf to School programme in the South Island, benefitting children who live away from the beach. Youthtown generously gave SLSNZ a grant worth $100,000 to help run the Surf to School tour including a new vehicle to get around the participating schools.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand offers a range of Beach Education courses to provide children with lifelong skills in and around New Zealand's favourite playground - the beach. Beach Ed and City Nippers courses educate kids about surf safety and beach awareness taught in a fun-filled session at the beach. But Surf to School is unique in that it's aimed at schools that have more difficulty in getting their students to the beach.

Surf Lifeguard Instructors bring the Surf to School vehicle into the school grounds to teach children important water safety and survival skills. They can set up in a classroom, school hall, gym or on the school field if the weather allows. If a school pool is available a practical component can also be added to the programme. Up until now Surf to School hasn't been available in the South Island.

On February 5, four instructors met with representatives from Youthtown for a day of training in Christchurch in the lead up to the first Surf to School session. One of the first lucky recipients will be Fairlie Primary School in South Canterbury on February 25. Over 90 children and their teachers will be taken through a 90 minute practical pool session. The instructors will then visit one school per day over four weeks meaning the surf safety message will reach around 2000 students who would otherwise be unable to get to a Beach Ed programme.

Youthtown CEO Keith Thorpe says the organisation is delighted to be able to help fund both the rebuild of the Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club and the first non-coastal 'Surf to School' programme for the South Island region.

"Our Kiwi kids are fortunate to grow up in a country where there are many opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. The greater challenge is to ensure they do this safely and with confidence and that's why Surf to School is such a great youth initiative.

"We are proud to know that with Youthtown support, this pilot programme will reach over 2,000 primary and secondary school students. It's a real privilege to work with Surf Life Saving to assist kids unfamiliar with the ocean to develop good skills and confidence in the water."

Surf Life Saving New Zealand Education Development Officer Natalie Harris says "the plan is to roll out the programme in all areas that don't have easy access to the beach," she says.

For more information about Surf to School and how you can help to get your local school involved visit www.surflifesaving.org.nz. For more information about Youthtown visit www.youthtown.org.nz.

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