By Justin Flynn
Ocean Grove’s Marcus Bird is the best Nipper in the state after winning the prestigious Fred Westfield Medal at the Victorian Junior Lifesaving Championships in Warrnambool.
Bird, 13, won the award as Life Saving Victoria’s best all-round under-14 athlete for the 2017/18 season.
“I think it was pretty close between me and one of the Under 14 girls,” Bird told the Voice.
The Kardinia International College student will now move up into the senior ranks and will head to Scarborough, WA, for the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships from 14 to 22 April.
Bird was ranked first in the state in the water and also performed strongly on the beach, but it’s in the ocean where he feels most comfortable.
“In the water for sure,” he said.
“I’m not really a beachy person.”
Bird paid tribute to Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club’s dedicated band of volunteers.
“The coaching, the atmosphere – there’s a lot of volunteering that goes into Nippers.”
Bird’s father, Shane, said the dedication required to be a surf life saver was astonishing.
“I don’t know of too many other sports, maybe gymnastics, that requires you to train as much as these kids do,” he said.
Nippers train 10 times a week and Bird has been at OGSLSC since he was eight years old.
Bird swims four mornings a week, trains on the board four times weekly and has iron training twice a week.
“I always say to other parents that ask, that you’re in a great environment,” Shane said.
For now, Marcus plans to focus on training and doing well at the Aussies.
He said surf life saving was a tough sport, but it had many positives.
“If you go down to the beach with your friends, you know you’re going to be a lot safer,” he said.
“Aside from competition, you get to be at the beach and there’s not too many better places to be when you’re training and competing.”
Bird said that Nippers was a terrific way for young people to socialise and learn discipline.
“Exercise makes you feel good,” he said.
“It has many positives and meeting other people is one of them.”