Skip to Main Content

Surf's Up for Albatross Nippers

When it comes to favourite Aussie weekend activities, there's nothing that fits the bill quite like nippers.

Out in the sun, surf and sand, Nippers is where many of us learn about ocean safety and beach fitness for the first time.

However, some young participants need more of a helping hand than others, due to different abilities and special needs. 

On the Gold Coast, you will often find these amazing kids at Nobby Beach Surf Life Saving Club participating in Albatross Nippers, Australia’s first fully inclusive Nippers program.

Alongside them, you will also find the All Saints Rugby team.

As part of their commitment to community service and service learning, our 1st XV regularly assist at Albatross Nippers.

Supported by coaches Sean Bale, Tom Campbell and Damian Boulton - and team captain Campbell Heyer - each player is paired with a Nipper to work through the various surf activities, races and challenges.

“The first time we were lined up to do it, Mr Bale organised it and none of us really knew what to expect,” says Campbell.

“As we got to know all the kids and created bonds with everyone there, it became exciting to go every Saturday. I know the team are always keen to go and spend time with the kids.”

5 13 21 Surfs Up Gallery 3
5 13 21 Surfs Up Gallery 6
5 13 21 Surfs Up Gallery 2
5 13 21 Surfs Up Gallery 5

Albatross Nippers was founded by local sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapist Nick Marshall.

At the 2020 Australian of The Year Awards, Nick was the Queensland recipient of the Local Hero Award for his work with special needs children and beach inclusivity on the Gold Coast.

“Albatross Nippers formed because Nick noticed there were many kids in the regular Nippers program who had siblings sitting on the sidelines because of their various needs,” explains Mr Bale.

“So now these kids can do the full program – the flags, the relays, the boards, the Iron Man – the lot. But they also need someone to support them, and that’s where the team comes in.”

On day one, Campbell was paired with Albatross Nipper Jordan 'Jordy' Sheppard who, after getting to know the 1st XV well, has now joined All Saints as the official volunteer rugby water boy. Jordy lives with Down syndrome.

According to Mr Bale he is quite the character and has become an instant part of the team.

“Jordy is an absolute ratbag, he fits right in!” says Mr Bale.

“At Nippers he is always really keen to go as soon as we all get there,” Campbell adds. “He just loves spending time with us, mucking around with us and running around in the water. He is always just really energetic and excited.”

Campbell says that spending time with Jordy and the other Nippers puts a lot of things into perspective.

“It makes us really appreciate being part of a team – being able to play footy and train together,” he says.

Words by Paris Faint | Photography by Sean Bale