LONG-TIME Kiama Surf Lifesaving Club member Rhys Dawson has reflected on the benefits of years of involvement with the club after taking out the South Coast Branch Surf Life Saver of the Year award recently.
Dawson, 25, joined Kiama surf club as an eight-year-old Nipper and has loved every minute of his association with the club.
"After coming through Nippers, I gained my surf rescue certificate and bronze medallion as soon as I was old enough and became a patrolling member in 2002," Dawson said.
"By 2005 I was jet rescue boat captain and absolutely loved the extra responsibility and working closely with our neighbours, Kiama Downs. I am now duty officer for the South Coast branch, which stretches from Warilla to Mollymook.
"It's a lot of hard work but I love every minute of it and can't imagine not being as involved."
Despite his own tender years, Dawson said the part he enjoyed most was watching young members come through the ranks.
"I co-ordinate a crew of around 20 members from Kiama and Kiama Downs and it's a real thrill to see the young members getting involved.
"There are also some benefits of being so heavily involved with the jet boat, as it also opens up opportunities to go on exchange programs - like in 2010 when I spent a weekend patrolling Bondi, Coogee and Maroubra.
"This allows you the opportunity to network with other clubs and meet so many new friends - I absolutely love it."
Dawson said he was inspired by his father, Steve, who is an ambulance paramedic, and owed so much to his mentors - Kiama's new club president, Nick McInerney, and Kiama Downs' Josh Douglas.
"Nick and Josh both put so much time and effort into their particular clubs and have been terrific role models for me, and have also been extremely influential in where I am now."
He said there was a constant need for new members and while Kiama had fairly good retention, it still had to be monitored.
"We tend to lose a few of the younger guys through university study or work commitments, but the main thing is we need to keep bringing our junior members through," he said.
The summer surf season starts on September 26.
For more information on joining, visit the Surf Life Saving NSW websitesurflifesaving.com.au, or go to your club's open day on Sunday, September 29.