$15.7 million. This isn’t the jackpot for Saturday night’s lotto draw, it’s the staggering amount of money the entrants of Queensland Life Saving’s Summer Surf Girl Program have raised for their clubs.
What started out over 50 years ago as a beauty pageant, has evolved into an outstanding leadership program for young female lifesavers. It gives them the opportunity to raise money for their clubs, educate the community in lifesaving skills, and raise awareness of the movement throughout Queensland.
Ten months of commitment culminates in a final judging week where the entrants come together to showcase their achievements and demonstrate their lifesaving skills and knowledge. Then at a gala awards dinner, an ambassador is chosen to represent Surf Life Saving Queensland for the next 12 months.
I am proud to call myself a Surf Girl and to have been an ambassador for the red and yellow, as are the 1,028 females who have shared this journey. Now, I’m fortunate enough to be a judge and I have just celebrated my 10th year of involvement in the Program.
Being a Surf Girl is no easy task. Thousands of sausages are cooked at never-ending fundraising events throughout the year. Endless hours are spent patrolling and keeping beachgoers safe. Countless nights and weekends are sacrificed to learn new lifesaving skills which are then imparted to others. Hundreds of sponsorship letters are written, sent, and followed-up.
They do all of this while managing work commitments, study, and a social life. It sounds like a whole lot of hard work, so why would anyone take on the task of being a Summer Surf Girl?
Each year the program brings together a group of women who hail from many different parts of Queensland, and together they inspire each other to achieve great things. They share the stress and joys that come with Surf Girl territory, and because of this, they form strong bonds and friendships that are shared for life.
It’s only a select few who have accomplished what they have, and it’s with those friends they share the title of Summer Surf Girl.
2: People and Community
The work the Surf Girls carry out during their campaign brings people and communities together for a common cause. Entire towns and regions participate in events and activities organised by the Surf Girls and their clubs.
Here is one of my favourite stories: Some time ago a Surf Girl from a tiny club on the central Queensland coast was struggling to raise the minimum amount of money required to enter the Surf Girl Program. A Surf Girl from a very prominent club on the Gold Coast heard about this, enlisted the help of her club members, and travelled north to organise a fundraising event. Together they raised the necessary funds for the smaller club to be able to enter.
3: Personal Development
For many young women, speaking in front of a room full of people, being interviewed by the media, or engaging in conversation with well-known public figures, is a daunting prospect. In fact, many grown adults would baulk at finding themselves in that situation.
The Program offers personal development and life skills, and over the course of the program, even the shyest girls transform into confident and outgoing women.
4: Community Education
Surf Girls often describe community education as one of the most fulfilling activities they undertake during the Program. Imagine teaching a person how to save another human’s life. Imagine educating a child so they don’t drown at the beach. Imagine taking the first steps into the water with someone who has never seen the ocean, let alone swam in it. These are the types of life-changing community education activities the Program provides.
Throughout their campaigns, every Surf Girl is recognised as an ambassador for lifesaving, regardless of the final judging week outcome. Each participant is acknowledged by their family, their friends, their community, and the organisation for their outstanding contribution to lifesaving.
For many participants, the Program is not about personal recognition. Instead, it’s about raising the profile of their clubs and lifesaving as a whole so funds can be raised to buy the necessary equipment and keep Queensland beaches open.
What a Surf Girl achieves over ten months is matched by few in a lifetime, but these five simple reasons make all the hard work worthwhile.
Based in Queensland and want to become a Summer Surf Girl? Visit the Surf Live Saving Queensland website to find out more. If you don’t meet the criteria to become a Surf Girl, contact your local surf lifesaving club and find out how you can support one.