At just past 8am on a Saturday morning at Nobbys Beach Surf Club on Queensland’s Gold Coast, something very special is about to happen. Dozens of mums and dads loaded up like packhorses trudge across blistering hot sand to get as close to the water’s edge as possible. They are the proud parents of the pint-sized heroes we know as nippers who, every weekend between September and March, eagerly take to our beaches to learn about surf safety.
To the northern end of the flags, one gutsy group of youngsters has gathered. Smeared in sunscreen and decked out in brilliant orange rashies, the flock of 30 young warriors takes off in full formation. This is the magnificent Albatross Nippers, a select group of youngsters who participate in a unique program that gives children with special needs an opportunity to be included in mainstream surf lifesaving.
In the pack there’s one young man who can’t help but stand out. He’s 13-year-old Marcus Hay and he has Down syndrome, but that’s not up for discussion. The pint-sized teen with a smile that would knock the socks off the most hardened of souls has his eyes firmly fixed on the ocean where he knows he can find his happy place.
“See out there where there’s a break – that’s where I feel like Superman! I’m more confident than some of the other kids so I like to help them get better every week so they keep coming back for more,” Marcus tells The Weekly crew spending the morning with this special group of youngsters.
“I’ve been an Albatross for nearly five years and when I grow up I want to become one of the volunteers.
“My dad [Warwick] and mum [Carla] and my little sister Liana tell me how proud they are of me. I love to win, but I also want my mates to do well – that way we can all be winners,” he says, before taking off down the beach to help a couple of buddies who’ve taken a fall.
Watching on, it’s hard not to feel buoyed by the spirit of the Albatross Nippers and their boundless passion and sheer determination. They have a range of disabilities including cerebral palsy, autism, Asperger’s syndrome and muscular dystrophy, but ask any one of them if they feel ‘different’ from the mainstream kids down the beach, and the response would be a resounding no.
Founder and creator of the Albatross movement is local Gold Coast physiotherapist and veteran surf coach Nick Marshall who has been involved in surf lifesaving since he was a nipper back in the 1980s. The father of two little girls, Ella, seven, and Imogen, four, could see a gaping hole in the system and decided to do something about it.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Role model royals
As we celebrate William and Kate’s 10th wedding anniversary, Juliet Rieden asks: can the close-knit Cambridge five steady the royal ship with their duty, dignity and family values?
TOGETHER FOR CHANGE
As allegations of sexual assault and harassment swirl around our federal Parliament, Samantha Trenoweth sits down with some of the most powerful women in the land to consider the issues that have shaken the nation.
Remember the time
APRIL 1823: The first Sydney Royal Easter Show
“Finding my power” -Toni Pearen
Facing her demons (and a few snakes) in the jungle led to a personal and professional renaissance for Toni Pearen. Jenny Brown meets the former pop princess as she steps into a brave new life.
“I was lost before Lauren”
It may seem a charmed life, but MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo has had serious lows with the highs. He tells Sue Smethurst how love saved him.
Ray of hope
Nobody would consider the parents of children with cancer lucky, but for two families who were included in a ground-breaking Australian program to fight childhood cancers, lucky is exactly how they feel. Genevieve Gannon meets those families.
My story: My journey out of darkness
When screenwriter Kristen Dunphy checked herself into a psychiatric ward, her world was unbearably dark, but with pen and paper in hand, she found the glimmer of hope that carried her home.
In the name of my daughter
When her 20-year-old daughter was brutally murdered in a Queensland hostel, Rosie Ayliffe needed answers. What she uncovered compelled her to launch a campaign to expose the dangers backpackers face in Australia, she tells Juliet Rieden.
Best friends forever
A trip down memory lane makes the perfect birthday gift for a much loved childhood friend.
How To Max Your Morning Rituals
In our quest for the best possible wake-up and start to our day, we need a multisensory approach that draws us out of slumber and kickstarts our body clock. Here, Russell Jones, author of Sense, shares simple ways to feel good.
Bumper UK race fleets forecast
A bumper racing season in the UK is being predicted this summer as the easing of restrictions to social gatherings meets pent up appetite for competitive events. The largest is likely to be the Round the Island Race, which takes place on 3 July, followed by Cowes Week and the Rolex Fastnet Race in August, both of which could see boosted fleet numbers.
Y&R: NEW CRISIS FOR FAITH
At the Newman ranch, Faith confesses to Nikki that her secret admirer turned out to be Jordan, who was catfishing her.
Judge hires all-important offensive line coach
After interviewing a few candidates, Joe Judge hired Rob Sale to coach his offensive line. Sale previously worked with Judge during their time together at Alabama under Nick Saban.
COMING OUT OF THE CHEMICAL CLOSET
Neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart says most of what the public knows about drugs is both scary and wrong.
WHITNEY HOUSTON DEATH CASE EXPLODES
Investigators hope to dig up body for new tests to expose murder cover-up
This team dedicated ten years to building Middle-earth in MINECRAFT
Dad’s 1931 Model A Coupe Inspires Son to Build His Dream Roadster
Brother Where are We?
Two brothers discover a winter challenge when they ski to McKeever Cabin in the Upper Peninsula— along with the refuge of warm fires, gorgeous landscapes and Blackrocks beer.
Y&R: DRAMA AT SHARON AND REY'S WEDDING
The day before her wedding, a stressed-out Sharon becomes concerned when Nick shows up at her house.
DOWN THE STRETCH
49ers under microscope as season comes to close