Meet this year’s Summer Surf Ambassadors

The Summer Surf Program (formerly known as Summer Surf Girl) is a fundraising and member development program that aims to engage female surf lifesavers from across Queensland, and develop their skills and experience both on and off the beach.

Since its inception in 1964, the program has directly injected more than $16.7 million back into surf life saving clubs across Queensland.

All funds raised are distributed back into participating clubs to be used in a variety of ways, such as the maintenance and purchase of new rescue equipment, surf safety education, member development, increasing volunteer memberships and expanding training programs.

This year we have seven participants from Townsville down to the Gold Coast.

Emma Angel – Mooloolaba SLSC

Emma Angel

Emma joined Mooloolaba SLSC as an under 8 nipper, after her family moved to the Sunshine Coast from Sydney, where she originally began as an under 6 nipper in North Cronulla. Emma has acquired 88 awards, along with Branch, State and Australian titles. However, she said her proudest achievements include receiving a SLSQ Lifesaving Excellence Award, obtaining her Gold Medallion, and helping a boy with autism into the ocean.

Emma decided to become a Summer Surf Ambassador as a way to thank her club, which she said has done so much for her family. She is also hoping to bring generations, the club, and the community together.

“Over the last 15 years, I’ve had so many incredible opportunities. This program is a way to give back to my club for everything they do for my family, the community, and me,” she said.

Throughout her many patrols over the years, Emma says that one day in particular stands out as putting her lifesaving skills to the ultimate test. Emma was patrol captain and ART on Australia Day this year, a warm day during which thousands of people visited the beach.

“Within five minutes of raising the flags, we had a serious rescue in which the patient was hardly breathing and had swallowed a lot of water. After transferring the patient to hospital in a stable condition, there was an asthma attack, a suspected spinal injury, and a dislocated shoulder, another rescue, and a missing child,” she said.

Ultimately, for Emma, the best thing about surf lifesaving is the community spirit. “I love how it is a voluntary movement that serves the community whilst nurturing lifelong skills and friendships.”

Emma has now begun her career as a primary school teacher, after graduating from the University of the Sunshine Coast with a Bachelor of Primary Education last year. She works as a casual lifeguard, and patrols as a lifesaver volunteer with her father and sister.

Kirralee Barnard – Marcoola SLSC

Kirralee has been involved in the surf lifesaving movement since she was a nipper, and has progressed to achieve her Surf Rescue Certificate and Bronze Medallion.

Having graduated high school in 2017, Kirralee dived head-first into the Summer Surf Program to raise awareness of Surf Life Saving Queensland and to educate her community about surf safety.

Kirralee said she decided to undertake the Summer Surf Program as it would be an incredible opportunity to become more involved in SLSQ and promote community engagement.

“Surf lifesaving is close to my heart. I love the community engagement, and how the organisation educates Australians on water safety. The position of Summer Surf Ambassador was offered to me at the start of 2018, and I don’t think I could have imagined my year any different, going into a community-based program straight out of high school.”

Kirralee said it has been a privilege to be an influential female figure at Marcoola SLSC, and her goal as a Summer Surf Ambassador has been to increase awareness about surf lifesaving programs, and encourage support for the movement.

Kirralee now studies a Bachelor of Nursing Science at Sunshine Coast University, with an aim to work in the neonatal ward. Outside of her studies and lifesaving commitments, she work as a bartender at Marcoola Surf Club, and enjoys going for a swim, hiking up Mt Coolum or spending time at nippers and youth events.

Patrea Bojack – Ayr SLSC

Patrea joined Ayr Surf Life Saving Club in 2016 after suffering a debilitating back injury which had prevented her from participating in sports – her passion.

“I needed an activity that would provide structure and routine in my life. Joining Ayr SLSC meant I could participate in swimming, which would help me recover from my back injury,” Patrea explained.

After two years as a volunteer lifesaver, Patrea found herself enjoying all aspects of club life, including surf sports, water safety and fundraising. “Being a member of the Ayr SLSC has helped me not only physically, but has given me the confidence to again be a part of the Burdekin community,” she said.

Patrea emphasised that it was very important to both herself, and her club, that she represented the community as a Summer Surf Ambassador in 2018-19.

“The program has allowed me to learn vital skills for life, make new friends and give back to Ayr SLSC. Being a Summer Surf Ambassador has enabled me to promote lifesaving within the Burdekin community, and encourage both seniors and juniors to join the club,” she said.

Patrea said her proudest achievements included winning Master Female Lifesaver at the Senior Club Championships, and being awarded the Encouragement Award.

When asked about her most serious rescue, Patrea reflected on an incident in which a group of backpackers became stranded on the sandbar at Alva. “Two backpackers started to swim across the channel of water, but ran into difficulty as it was high tide. I took my board out, and brought one of the backpackers, who was in distress, safely back to shore,” she shared.

An athlete at heart, Patrea is a keen surf sport competitor, having participated at Branch Championships in Bowen, and achieving the title of Master Female Water Champion and Master Female Beach Champion in 2017.

Zoe Breitkreutz – Arcadian SLSC

Having recently graduated with a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science, and working as a casual lifeguard in Townsville, it’s safe to say that Zoe has been busy both on and off the beach.

Zoe joined Mackay Surf Life Saving Club as a nipper in the Under 8s, and has just completed her 13th season in surf lifesaving. Zoe has a host of lifesaving awards under her belt, including her Bronze, Silver and Gold Medallions, as well as her Advanced Resuscitation Techniques, Advanced First Aid and her Rescue Water Craft Operator Certificate. Always striving towards the next goal, Zoe is now working towards obtaining her Development Coach qualification.

When it comes to memorable rescues, Zoe says she has saved a number of young children over the years who were swept out of their depth unexpectedly and were stuck beneath the power of waves.

The busiest day she ever experienced was Easter Sunday 2018 at Alma Bay.

“There were hundreds of people in the water, on the beach, and in the park. On this particular Easter, we had missing children, first aid treatments, jellyfish stings, as well as disorderly beachgoers to deal with,” she said.

With a deep passion for surf lifesaving, Zoe joined the Summer Surf Program in an effort to help drive membership while raising much-needed funds for Arcadian SLSC.

“My love for this organisation has driven me to become a Summer Surf Ambassador. The passion I have for surf lifesaving is hard to describe. It’s provided me with friends and family from all over the country, and has taken me to places I could only have dreamed of. I want to show others the great benefits and amazing things that surf lifesaving offers,” she said.

Sophie Gerry – Mermaid Beach SLSC

Sophie’s family ties to surf lifesaving extend back almost two decades, when her mum Melinda first joined the movement in 2001. Sophie and her brother Ben would follow in their mother’s footsteps, with the family serving a combined 32 years as volunteer lifesavers on Australian beaches.

Sophie first joined surf lifesaving in 2008 at North Haven SLSC. After a break from 2010-2014, she rejoined the movement on the Gold Coast where she would obtain more than 44 lifesaving awards. Just some of her qualifications include her Bronze Medallion and Radio Training Officer, ART, First Aid, IRB Water Safety and Duty Boat Course.

Although Sophie hasn’t performed a rescue on the beach, which she attributes to her patrol’s preventative actions, she has used the lifesaving skills during a serious accident when travelling overseas.

“When I was in Cambodia, I was first to the scene of a motorbike accident. I applied my first aid knowledge, took control of the situation and the patient was sent off to hospital when the ambulance arrived,” she shared.

For Sophie, becoming a Summer Surf Ambassador has been a long-term goal since she participated in the Breaka Youth Excellence Program five years ago. “I was inspired by other participants, and I wanted to inspire others – in all areas of lifesaving and beyond. I was also motivated to challenge myself, connect with younger and older members of the community, and to give back to my club for all the opportunities I’ve had over the years,” she said.

A dedicated member of the community, Sophie studies a Diploma of Community Services while working as a SLSQ Community Awareness presenter – in addition to working two part-time jobs in hospitality.

When she’s not on the beach, Sophie enjoys getting involved in other community initiatives, including volunteering at homeless centers, youth organisations and environmental programs. Sophie is known locally for her charitable efforts, having been recognised as Junior Philanthropist of the Year in 2015.

Jules Grana – Surfers Paradise SLSC

Hailing from Brazil, Jules has been an active member of the surf lifesaving community for the past seven years, since becoming the Bistro Manager at Surfers Paradise SLSC Supporters Club.

Achieving her Surf Rescue Certificate in September 2018 was a huge accomplishment for Jules, who had avoided the ocean for almost a decade after a traumatic experience in her early 20s. While surfing with her brother one day, Jules was hit by massive waves and thrown off her board, leading her to swallow a large amount of water and nearly drown.

After learning of Jules’ fear of the ocean, club members helped her regain her confidence in the water. Jules trained for three months, six times a week, to strengthen her swimming abilities in order to pass her Bronze Medallion. Since becoming a qualified volunteer in September, she has conducted six rescues at Surfers Paradise, and has been an integral member of the club’s volunteer patrols.

When reflecting on her busiest day patrolling so far, Jules immediately thought back to a day in January when more than 30 people were stung by bluebottles.

“Our tent looked like a horror movie. We had kids crying, and parents carried their children up to us, cradled in their arms. We didn’t have any bad reactions, and we did our best to keep everyone calm and tell everyone it would be okay,” she said.

With Jules’ courage in overcoming her fear of the surf, and her dedication to surf lifesaving, it’s clear why she is among the seven Summer Surf Ambassadors for 2018-19.

Jules said she was motivated to become a Summer Surf Ambassador because it would be a chance to promote water and beach safety, and become even more involved with her club. “It’s an awesome opportunity for me to promote our wonderful beaches and educate the general public about surf safety, while supporting my club through fundraising opportunities and school visits,” she said.

Emma Kannemeyer – Nobbys Beach SLSC

Originally from Melbourne, Emma became the first in her family to join the surf lifesaving movement when she achieved her Bronze Medallion in December 2017. As a duty manager and a casual functions coordinator at Nobby’s Beach Surf Club, Emma had already been involved in the surf lifesaving community for over a year before obtaining her Bronze Medallion.

Having had a fear of the ocean, Emma attributes her newfound confidence in the water to the unwavering support and guidance of her instructors throughout her Bronze Medallion course. “Conquering my fear of the ocean was my first achievement in surf lifesaving. Not only have I been able to overcome my fear, but I’ve gained the confidence and energy to assist others in the same position,” Emma shared.

When asked what motivated her to become a Summer Surf Ambassador, Emma said it was a chance to further contribute to the surf lifesaving movement – both on and off the beach. “I saw a beautiful opportunity to dive in and immerse myself to help our club. I also wanted to address a generational gap and encourage more women to get involved with the movement,” she shared.

When reflecting on the Summer Surf Program, Emma said her role as Ambassador had not only affected her life, but had been a powerful catalyst for strengthening her club also. “Not only have I been able to learn important life skills, but I’ve developed on personal level to build confidence and learn to love myself. The experience has been life changing. I’ve been able to improve my mental and physical health, and build a group around me which I am humbled to call my family. In bringing the ambassador role to fruition, our club has come together that little bit more,” she explained.

Emma spends her weekends on patrol, assisting with nippers, or shaking her donation tin to collect as many funds as possible for her club. “I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my weekends. I love being at the beach, being around my family and doing something that makes me happy.”

Outside of surf lifesaving, Emma runs her own business, is a hospitality manager and a bartender, and even finds time to read, learn new languages and travel.