In 2016 Laura Thurtell was named the State’s best Masters Surf Sport Competitor but it is waves of a different kind that is making a real difference in the community that she proudly calls home.
The Forster Surf Life Saving Club member is a passionate advocate for community education and loves the challenge and mental stimulation of passing on her skills and knowledge to others, with the latest beneficiaries of her vast experience being some of the area’s youngest beach goers.
For the past six weeks Thurtell has been working with the Great Lakes Children Centre with the youngsters aged four and five giving them an early taste of what life in the beach is like.
Every session was planned with an emphasis on fun to help the kids stay both engaged and safe around the water.
Over the course of the program the participants got to dress up like a lifesaver, learned what the flags meant, how to signal for help, and participated in wade relays and board paddling in the shallows.
They even got to learn CPR.
“You’re never too young to learn CPR and we got them to do a counting exercise. They were in awe of the mannequin,” Laura said.
“What we did stress was to call triple zero if you need help and teach them skills that are useful for life. They’re just a sponge at that age and so full of questions and eager to learn.”
To help support Thurtell’s activities each weekend volunteers came down from the club to provide water safety.
In what is surely a testament to her skills as a teacher several of the older children have now joined Forster SLSC as part of its nipper program.
Laura Thurtell is already thinking ahead and has just completed the first two sessions of a four week after school program aimed at a slightly older age group (8-12 year olds), although it is built around the same philosophy of having fun and learning new skills.
“I really enjoy the educational aspect of doing these courses. We live in a community where the beach plays a huge role in the lives of youngsters. They’ll go with their friends and as they get older and enter their teenage years it will continue to be an attractive place to go.
“The children are exposed to the beach constantly and I believe it’s important to pass on our knowledge. They younger they are exposed to the basics the better as it will set them up with skills for life,” she concluded.”