The Salt nipper program trialed Saturday afternoon nippers for the 2018/19 season, and the result was a 75% increase in junior members, with Salt SLSC being awarded 2018/19 FNC Junior Club of the Year. The trial continued for the 2019/20 season with another large increase in participation, with the club awarded FNC Junior Club of the Year for 2019/20 - the second consecutive year. The program reached new heights again in the 20/21 season with a record 200+ nippers.

We researched various nipper programs across Australia, in particular from North Sydney to Noosa, to determine why various clubs schedule their nipper activity days on Saturday or Sunday.  The results were very interesting and the scheduling is done for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons for Sunday nippers at metropolitan beaches was that they were unable to hold nippers on a Saturday afternoon due to overcrowding on the beaches.  This is why a Sunday nipper program is appropriate for them, so they can beat the crowd and parents can find a car park.

The Kingscliff and Casuarina precinct doesn't yet have a problem with beach accessibility so we can choose a timetable that suits us. Some of the factors considered in the decision to switch to Saturdays include:

  • wind and beach conditions
  • average daily temperature
  • average daily UV readings
  • operational logistics
  • club training requirements
  • carnival participation
  • membership development
  • product differentiation
  • schedule of other summer sports

A common reaction from people can be to make generalisations based on instinct rather than fact, both positive and negative. We have tried to explain some of the reasoning used in making the decision. Most of the evidence will be factual, but some will draw on experience to predict outcomes. The trial exceeded all expectations but we acknowledge that it will not suit everyone.  We believe that the switch has been appropriate for the club at this point in it's development.

Beach Conditions and Temperature - According to Coolangatta monitoring data from the Bureau of Meteorology, average temperature and average wind speed are similar at 10am and 3pm.  The difference is that wind and temp will trend upwards from 10am, but trend down from 3pm. The net result is that we can expect conditions to improve during the nipper sessions, rather than deteriorate as we saw most Sundays.  If conditions continue to improve we may extend nippers to take advantage of conditions.

Average UV Readings - We extracted UV monitoring data from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency  (ARPNSA) website to test the theory regarding Ultra Violet radiation in the afternoon versus the morning. We sampled the data at 6 dates during the nipper season. The results were as expected - the sampled UV readings are the reverse of the morning. Currently we start nippers in low UV (2.8 avg) and finish in very high UV (9.2 avg), the proposed Saturday nippers will start in high UV (7.9 avg) and progress through to moderate UV  (4.3 avg). The difference being that if we wish to extend nippers to take advantage of good conditions, the UV will be dropping into the low range and we won't be putting the kids out in the extreme UV time of the day, like we do now. See table 1.1 for more data

Operational Logistics - The nipper program is always dependent on the weather and no one likes to wake up the family early on Sunday morning and then find out that nippers is cancelled.  With nippers on Saturday we can monitor the weather during the day and make the call closer to start time.  We also have the option to delay the start or reschedule to Sunday morning.

Club Training - We can utilise Sunday morning as a training day for new bronze trainees.  Most often it's the new nipper parents who wish to get more involved in their kids training and start the bronze course. This training has often clashed with nipper days and created problem for families trying to juggle their commitments. 

Carnival Participation - Our nipper activity days will not clash with carnival days. We can hold nippers as usual and then send our squad to the carnival the next day.  This frees-up our key personnel to attend both events.

Membership Development - Saturday Nippers can create a more cohesive social structure. When nipper activities are complete for the day, there's no need to rush off.  Stay for a while and enjoy a refreshment at the new clubhouse which will be able to serve all members.  Perhaps the kids will want an early dinner.  The kids can play while you relax on the deck with a cold drink. This has proven to be a big part of the benefits identified from the trial.

Product differentiation - We are a young club located in between 2 very mature clubs who have much history and well-established communities to draw their membership from. We can take advantage of our progressive approach and achieve changes that may not otherwise be possible at clubs tied to a sense of nostalgia. By taking the initiative, we can offer something different to the saturated local lifesaving market. The nipper program doubled in size in the first 2 seasons after the switch and continues to grow.

Table 1.1 - The table below shows the sampled UV readings at Brisbane monitoring station on various nipper days for the 2017/18 season.  The times are adjusted for NSW Daylight savings.

Date 9am 10am 11am 2pm 3pm 4pm 5pm
Sunday 29th October 2017 3.3 5.8 8.2 8.4 6.0 3.4 1.4
Sunday 26th November 2017 3.0 3.9 11.3 10.8 7.8 4.6 2.1
Sunday 17th December 2017 3.9 7.2 10.3 6.2 8.4 5.3 2.0
Sunday 21st January 2018 2.6 5.1 9.3 8.0 6.1 6.6 2.7
Sunday 18th February 2018 2.1 5.1 8.8 7.8 8.7 3.8 1.7
Sunday 11th March 2018 1.9 4.3 7.0 6.1 4.4 2.2 1.3
Average 3.6 6.5 9.4 9.4 6.7 3.8 1.6

Ideally, we will progress through to a slightly later start in the afternoon, but his will be dependant on patrol availability. For the 2020/2021 season we have been able to shift the start time to 2:30, which will further shift the program to the lower UV range of the afternoon.