MOST beach safety courses target high school-aged children, but Sutherland Shire Council is aiming younger to get across the message that while the beach can be a lot of fun, it can also be dangerous.
To do so, the council has enlisted world No. 3 surfer Sally Fitzgibbons, University of NSW professor Rob Brander and a couple of cute mascots and set up the Surf Hero website.
Launched December 1 with $10,000 from Tradies Gymea, surfhero.com.au features four mascots — Sonny the Lifeguard, Max the Surf Lifesaver Meerkat, Doctor Rip and surfing champion Sally Fitzgibbons, who appears as cartoon character Sally the Surf Coach.
There is also a comprehensive activity centre with fun games such as find-a-word, memory challenges, quizzes and colouring activities.
The activities focus on teaching children about safety and warning signs, how to identify a rip, the role of lifeguards and lifesavers and our responsibilities as beach users.
‘‘Learning about beach and surf safety is so important and Surf Hero introduces kids to the basic surf safety concepts in a fun and enjoyable way,’’ Fitzgibbons said.
‘‘It’s also a great resource for schools, community groups and young people to find out about programs to enhance their skills and knowledge of surf safety.’’
Professor Brander, aka Dr Rip, has created several activities on the site to educate kids about the dangers of rips.
‘‘Rip currents cause more fatalities in an average year than bushfires, cyclones, floods and sharks combined,’’ he said.
‘‘With thousands of rips on our beaches and so many unpatrolled beaches it’s so important that school kids get as much education about rip currents as possible.’’
The Surf Hero site was designed in consultation with Surf Life Saving NSW, the University of NSW, Vegemite SurfGroms and Surfers Rescue 24/7.
There are opportunities for providers of other surf awareness programs outside southern Sydney to promote their courses on the site.
Children can use the site in their own time and the games and activities have been designed so teachers can use them to complete the water safety components of primary school syllabuses.
‘‘Kids will love getting to know Sonny, Max, Dr Rip and Sally and will, hopefully, learn more about surf safety at the same time,’’ said mayor Steve Simpson.
‘‘Incorporating vital ocean awareness and beach-safety advice into practical surfing or surf lifesaving tuition will help kids realise for themselves just how important surf safety is and perhaps inspire them to become Nippers or Vegemite SurfGroms and continue to learn safety.”
Tradies boss Tim McAleer said: ‘‘The beach is an important part of our local culture and we thank everyone involved in this website.’’