I strolled through the Palm Cove Markets, watching a surf lifesaving carnival of Nippers. They were doing runs on the beach and seemed to have replaced the game of Flags with an army-type crawl under some rope netting. Further along the beach, their older counterparts were clothed from neck to feet in “stinger suits”. These nylon jumper suits are meant to save you from what could be deadly stings from Box and Bluebottle jellfish. The two deadliest kind we learned about when I was being trained as a beach Lifeguard at the Palm Cove Surf Lifesaving Club.

And there they were, out on surfboards in their stinger suits, surfing in on the tiny waves we get here up North. Nothing like the life threatening dumper (look up name for big waves) as high as houses down on the Gold Coast. I remember refusing to compete in SL carnivals that far south. Mackay and once Rockhampton was as far as I would compete as a Nipper.

I was a champion in the Flags race, beating the boys in the competition where you lay flat on your stomachs, head facing the sea, toes the beach edge. Then on a whistle, you’d leap up, turn around and run like billyo up the sands and dive to grab a “flag” which was invariably a bit of garden hose cut into pieces stuck upright in the beach.

If you missed out as there was one cut hose piece short of the number of scraggly kids competing, then you lost the round. And so it went on “heads up, heads down, go!”, whipping around in a test of agility, speed and the resolved courage to dive.

That last step was the excuse the SLA of Australia decided to ban girls from this race — they feared it might damage budding breasts if we were being knocked to the ground, or diving face first to get our garden hose trophy. Worse still if a competitor elbowed you sideways in the chest (which was semi-allowed under the rules). And so Australian lifesaving history was made on asserted “medical grounds”.

Today I look at the place that the resident Charlie the Croc appears by the pier of fishermen, swimming among the smallish reef sharks and stingrays we used to see among the eels and jellyfish. Letting these kids surf near the crocodile estuary is a bewildering fact for my friends and family back in Europe. I tell them how we used to sail here, capsizing our family Hobie catatamaran. They shiver in fearful imagining of how easily we could have been stung to death by jellies or stingrays, not to mention being turned into lunch by our local salties.

image from the wix libary / creative commons 2023

Originally published at https://www.taniapeitzker.expert on July 12, 2023.



Tania Peitzker: New Tech / AI Strategist & Author

Visit the Peitzker Prizes @ SmartGreenTours.com for the link to my Spotify podcast "Innovations Solving the Climate Crisis". See also muckrack.com/taniapeitzker