Surf Life Saving NSW Swim Between The Flags

Become a Nipper

Surf Life Saving is a great activity for growing a child's confidence, knowledge and skills in the beach environment. Not only will your child have fun and meet new friends, they will become part of an iconic organisation that has served the Australian community for over 100 years.

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Nippers is a fun way for children aged 5 to Under 14 to enjoy the beach in a safe environment. The Junior Development Program is designed to ensure children have fun at the beach while participating in lessons that will give them a pathway to becoming a fully rounded participant in both lifesaving and sport.

Junior Development Program

The specially designed program progressively introduces knowledge and skills, learning outcomes through lessons that are tailored to each of the age groups. Each age group has its own individual set of lessons – between 10 and 16 depending on the age group. The program pathways learning towards the Surf Rescue Certificate which members can begin training towards from the age of 13.

SLSA Junior Development Program - Award Pathway

Age Group Age Award
Under 6 5 Nil (Surf Play 1)
Under 7 6 Nil (Surf Play 2)
Under 8  7 Surf Aware 1
Under 9 8 Surf Aware 2
Under 10 9 Surf Safe 1
Under 11 10 Surf Safe 2
Under 12 11 Surf Smart 1
Under 13 12 Surf Smart 2
Under 14 13 Surf Rescue Certificate

Other Awards are available to participants once they reach a certain age, such as Resuscitation Certificate (from 10 yrs) and Basic Emergency Care Certificate (from 11 yrs).

Under 6 and Under 7 Activities

Clubs are not bound to provide activities for Under 6’s and Under 7's, but any program needs to comply with the guidelines below. Clubs may also have their own conditions for participation in terms of parental involvement and duty of care.

The key focus for 5 and 6 years olds is on play, participation and fun.

The guidelines to support this include;

  • beach activities that emphasise games and group activities
  • water activities to be limited to shallow water near the water’s edge
  • no competition for these age groups other than that involved in fun games

Frequently Asked Questions

What club should I join?

Most members join the club nearest to their home, or where their friends or family are members. To find out more about Surf Life Saving Clubs in NSW including nipper days, times, costs and club size, please click here to find your closest club.

Does my child have to be able to swim to join?

It certainly helps. Your child will need to complete a preliminary skills assessment including a swim and a float which clubs will conduct either at the beach or in a pool environment. This is usually carried out before participating in any junior activity to assess their swimming and self-survival ability in the water. This will determine whether they can progress to the water based junior activities under normal water safety supervision or they will require closer supervision.

Is this a “Learn to Swim” program?

Surf Life Saving does not provide specific learn to swim training or stroke correction. This is strongly encouraged to be taken up externally. Some Clubs may be better placed to assist with the provision of this coaching and links to these programs. However your child will benefit enormously and increase their confidence from exposure to water based activities including swimming and board paddling through Surf Life Saving.

What age group will my child be in?

The age group that your child will be in is calculated to be the age they are as at the 30th September the year you are joining. For example, if your child was 11 on the 30th September (turning 12 on the 5th Oct) they are classed as being in the under 12 age group (even though they are 12).

How often do I bring my child to the beach?

Each club has a designated Nippers session each week, these are predominantly on Sunday mornings. Some clubs may have specialised training i.e. swimming, boards, march past on other days. Please check with your club as to what day they hold their Nippers session.

Does my child change age groups if their birthday is during a season?


What does my child need?

Swimmers, club cap, long sleeve t-shirt or rash top, a sun hat, towel and sunscreen. Most clubs have stocks of their branded apparel – speak to the relevant person at your club for prices and availability.

What activities do they undertake in Surf Life Saving?

Surf Education, basic first aid skills, running and flags, swimming, board paddling, wading, and lots of FUN activities.

Junior Awards – what are these for my child?

Each age level award has sessions that they participate in to acquire relevant skills and knowledge. They will need to attend and participate in all the compulsory sessions to attain the award.

What happens when my child finishes all the various junior age groups?

The Junior Development Program is designed to gradually introduce your child into the role of a qualified surf lifesaver and assist in patrolling the beaches. They can continue to be involved in a variety of competition events if desired. They will undertake various other awards and learn many facets of community service involvement. They can be taught specialist areas of competition and compete both at a state and a national level.

What and who are Age Managers?

An Age Manager is a member of the club who takes responsibility for the instruction of a particular age group throughout the season. All Age Managers have participated in the Age Managers Course and Member Screening – Working with Children Check (WWCC). We encourage all parents to join as members and take on the role of an Age Manager (or even get involved as a patrolling member)!

What can I do to help?

Parents can become involved in many areas of club activity. Areas can include – helping with training, coaching, officiating, fundraising, providing water cover (if you gain your SRC or Bronze medallion), cooking the Club BBQ, etc. but most of all supporting your child in their junior activities. All parents who help with nippers must join their club and become a financial member.