With record numbers, impressive accolades and exciting plans for the future, 2018/19 was a successful season for the Venus Bay Surf Life Saving Club. The club’s membership rocketed from 580 to 633 and 211 Nippers took part in the junior program, up from 187 last season. “We had a fabulous season in terms of our membership, competition results, fundraising and community engagement,” president Craig Watson said. “Most importantly, there were no tragedies on our beaches. We had a few rescues over the summer, but our lifesavers handled those situations extremely well.”

A triple rescue took place on New Year’ Day, which saw four young patrollers instrumental in saving lives.“It was a pretty serious rescue and the patrollers acted amazingly. Their response resulted in a highly successful rescue,” Craig said. In fact, the response earned the club Rescue of the Month for January.

We had a record number of patrol hours 4,119 and every patrol that Craig attended was an absolute pleasure to be part of. High numbers, quality lifesaving and a feeling of inclusion and fun were key elements. "We have been targeting improvements in our patrol efficiency results over the past few seasons and this year we really hit a home run". In the first patrol inspection the team scored maximum points and the second inspection was almost as successful. "We achieved 1,993 out of a possible 2,000 points an incredible effort that will place us in the top few clubs in the State" Craig stated.

This year members requalified for 379 awards – "this is a record and demonstrates the levels of engagement, retention and improvement in our members".  This is in addition to the 188 new awards gained by members. One of the many highlights for this team was developing one of our brilliant ‘Starfish Nippers’ graduates into a full-fledged patrolling member of our club. 

Craig said the club had also used the season to become better aligned with the growing community.“We have been working with schools and community groups to try to get more people involved with water safety. We are seeing our highest level of involvement ever,” he said. “We also worked with Interchange Gippsland. As a partnership, we ran a program to help participants learn water safety skills and try water based activities in a safe environment.”

Member recognition was on the forefront with 5 members receiving the National Medal for Service from the Governor General of Australia. Simon Gee, Brett Watson, Craig Watson, Paul Marshall and David Cumming were recognised for their service in June.  Venus Bay is the first Life Saving Club in Victoria to award these medals to members. Presentation night recognised many members for their service with SLSA service pins awarded for 5,10,15,20 and 30 years.  Long service awards were also presented for 30, 40 and 50 years with Ric Mitchell being recognised for 50 distinguished years of service to surf life saving. 

Mr Watson said he was extremely proud of what the club has become.“Without a doubt, this has been the best season the club has experienced. The culture and the feeling around the club have been fantastic,” he said.“We have a strategic plan in place to help us set and achieve small goals into the future. These goals include increasing our membership and I think that will go well due to our ongoing building development project.”The club has been in discussions with three levels of government and stakeholders to bring its facilities up to standard. The club is looking to be included in the next budget cycle to go ahead with building plans.

Picture: Ric Mitchell celebrated his 50th year of lifesaving with Travis Rowden.