UP until the age of 11, Nowra-Culburra Surf Life Saving Club Nipper Amy Abbey had a bit of a problem – she was terrified of waves.
Although she excelled at the beach events, she stayed firmly on the sand when it came time to get in the water.
But earlier this year, the now 14-year-old member was named a South Coast junior surf lifesaving champion along with Shellharbour’s Nathan Troiani.
Amy has not only conquered her fear of the surf, she has completed her first two patrols and is confident she will be able to save someone’s life when the time comes.
Amy first joined the Nippers when she was just four years of age.
The Abbey family live in Canberra but have commuted to their house at Callala Beach every weekend for the past 15 years.
Amy loved the calm waters of Callala Beach but didn’t want to know about the big waves of Culburra.
“I was OK in Nippers up until the under 11s, because before that we didn’t do big swims out in the ocean,” Amy said.
“I wouldn’t go in the water at all – I wouldn’t go on the big swim and I wouldn’t get on a board.”
She tributes her coach, Col Lawrence, for patiently finding ways to motivate her to take the plunge.
Slowly, her confidence grew.
“Col would swim out with me, side by side. I started doing more swimming in the pool in Canberra during the week and I started to be faster and stronger,” she said.
Nowadays, Amy prefers the rough and tumble of Culburra to calm Callala.
“I’m really confident now when it comes to the water. I know how to help myself if I get into trouble,” Amy said.
Amy’s sister Holly is also a champion Nipper and her mum, Karen, is a patrol member with the Nowra-Culburra club.
Amy said she would encourage all young people to get involved with their local surf club and said it is a great way to make friends.
“Being in the Nippers has taught me a bit of independence. I’ve learned to be out there by myself and to get used to it.”
Alongside Amy, 14-year-old Nathan Troiani of Shellharbour Surf Life Saving Club also received the award at the 2013 Junior Lifesaver of the Year development camp.
Nathan has been a Nipper for eight years.
“I just love competing, especially in the beach flags,” Nathan said.
“I love representing the club and this year competed at Branch, Inter Branch, the Sydney Water series and at Country.
“The camp was a great experience. I didn't know anyone there, apart from Amy who I knew from our branch, so meeting and getting to know everyone else from around the state was one of the best experiences.”