What is a Nipper/Niplet?

A nipper is the term used to identify a young member of the lifesaving movement who is between the ages of 8 to 14 y/o. Niplets are children that are younger than 8 y/o. Pirates Lifesaving Club (PLC) offers both a nipper and niplets program.

It all started at Pirates?

In 1969 the first nipper squad was formed at Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club.  200 youngsters took part in the first Basic Nipper Course, designed to teach young boys and girls the fundamental principles of surf safety.

Lifesaving South Africa’s Nipper movement was founded in 1972 and now boasts a membership of over 1200.  Nippers remain an important part of Pirates Lifesaving Club.

What to expect from Pirates Nippers & Niplets?

The clubs’ main function is to teach youngsters respect for the water and to give them confidence in an aquatic environment. We encourage fitness, friendship and fun, while learning a valuable life skill.

The important prerequisite to remember is that we do not undertake to teach swimming. On joining, children are tested on their swimming ability by way of an Entrance Pool Test (set by Lifesaving SA).  Failure to complete the Entrance Pool Test does not necessarily mean your child will not be able to participate in the PLC nippers program; they will however not be able to move forward to the Level Tests NOR compete in any competitions.

A great parental interest has developed and parents are often involved in the training, fundraising and administrative duties of the club. It cannot be emphasized enough that the nipper movement is completely voluntary and relies on membership fees, sponsorships and fundraising to cover all expenses.

Nipper Training:

The nipper season starts on the 1st September each year and runs through to mid April (Nationals).

Training takes place on the beach in front of Suncoast Pirates Lifesaving Club every Sunday morning as follows:

Niplets (under 8)                           8:30 – 10:00

Nippers (8 – 14 y/o)                       8:30 – 10:30

Children are requested to arrive 15 minutes early to sign the register and help with craft.  Additional / optional training is also held on Saturday mornings at DUC.  Details are e-mailed weekly.

The emphasis is on participation and fun. Activities include:  surf safety, swimming, body board paddling, knee board paddling, beach activities, and first-aid.

What kit/equipment is required?

A Pirates costume, rash vest and yellow training skull cap are required for Sunday training sessions.  These can be purchased from the office at the Club.

For competitions the Pirates black and white skull cap and pink safety vest need to be worn.

The club has a limited amount of body boards and mali boards for use by nippers.  Please ensure that your child treats the equipment with respect and returns any equipment/boards to the club house after practice.  Boards should be hosed off before being put away.

How to become a Pirates Nipper/Niplet?

Suncoast Pirates provides the opportunity to those new to lifesaving to try out the activities through our Come-and-Try sessions. Participants are allowed free sessions at the club during the month of August before committing to club membership. This is available to any child from the age of 5 y/o through to the U14’s.

To become a PLC Nipper member, follow these easy steps:

  1. Complete the membership form and submit via email to:
  2. Fill in the Indemnity Form and hand in with the original of the membership form at the Club, with a copy of the nipper’s birth certificate and ID photos of parents and nipper.
  3. Pay membership fees.
  4. Complete the Entrance Pool Test – not for Niplets (see Test section on page 3 for details).

Every year a nipper must complete a new membership form and indemnity form.  The originals must be submitted with a copy of the child’s birth certificate and proof of payment.

Membership Costs per season:

NIPPER GUARDIAN          R600 (every nipper/Niplet family requires one adult member. This is a Social Membership for one parent and enables the family to utilise the facilities during Club Hours)

NIPLET                              R1000 per niplet

NIPPER                             R1000 (includes level tests, Lifesaving South Africa membership but EXCLUDES competition entry fees).

Membership entitles you to use the club facilities while the clubhouse is open, club prices from the restaurant, and free access to all municipal pools.


Nipper age groups:

Nippers are placed in age groups as prescribed by Surf Lifesaving South Africa.  The age group of your child is their age as on the 30th September 2019. i.e. If they are 9 y/o on the 30th September 2019 then they will be in the Under 10’s age group for the full season.

NIPLETS 5-7 years of age
U10 8 & 9 y/o
U12 10 & 11 y/o
U13 12 & 13 y/o

Note:  If a nipper has a birthday after the 30th September 2019 it does not affect their competing age.  E.g. If a nipper is 9 y/o as at 30th September 2019 , they will compete in U10 age group for the full Nipper Season.  If the nipper turns 10yrs on 2 February 2020 they do not change age groups but remain in the U10 competing age group.

Nipper Tests:

Each Nipper needs to complete the Entrance Swim Test so that their abilities in water can be assessed. Niplets are not required to complete the Entrance Swim Test.  The Entrance Swim Test is conducted in a swimming pool and consists of:

A 100m swim in less than 3 minutes without stopping.

Treading water continuously for 5 minutes.

Retrieve an object 1.5 metres deep in a pool.

Nippers wanting to participate in the various nipper competitions (see next section) are required to also pass the relevant Level Test.   Each age group annually completes either the Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 award.

LEVEL 1: UNDER 10 (as per age at date of test and NOT competing age)

LEVEL 2: UNDER 12 (as per age at date of test and NOT competing age)

LEVEL 3: UNDER 14 (as per age at date of test and NOT competing age)

Nippers at each Level are required to do a surf swim, and are tested on their water safety rules, basic personal first aid, lifesaving signals and other lifesaving rules.

Note: If a nipper is 9 y/o as at the 30th September, then they are LEVEL 1, competing as U10.  If the testing is done on 10th November and the nipper is still 9 y/o, then they will be TESTED as LEVEL 1 and COMPETE as U10.

However, if a nipper is 9 y/o as at the 30th September, then they are LEVEL 1, competing as U10yrs.  If the Level testing is done on 10th November , and the nipper had a birthday on 4th November and is now, as at 10th November, 10yrs.  Then they will be TESTED as LEVEL 2, BUT still COMPETE as LEVEL 1, U10.


Exclusions: When a nipper remains in the same age group as previous season and does not change levels and has passed the level test they do not have to do the level test again.  E.g. If a nipper was LEVEL 1 , U9 last season and passed the Level 1 test, this season they are U10 but as they are still in LEVEL 1 they not have to be re tested.

Dates for swim tests and level tests will be communicated via e-mail.

Nipper Competitions:

Practicing the skills learnt at nippers helps to develop confidence in the surf environment.

After passing the Entrance Pool Test and relevant Level Test, nippers are all eligible to compete in any/all of the nipper competitions.  No further qualification/selection is necessary. PLC participates in Fun Carnivals, Provincial Championships, Interprovincial Championships and National Championships.

Nippers compete in their respective age groups against other lifesaving clubs.  Individual (boys & girls) as well as team/relay (mixed boys & girls) events are held across various surf, pool and beach disciplines.

There are additional costs associated with the Fun Carnivals, as well as the Provincial Championships, which are usually held locally.  There are further costs associated with Interprovincial and National Championships (which are held at the end of the season) as these often take place in other provinces and travel/accommodation is required.

It must be noted that although Competitions are an integral part of Nippers, they are not the be all and end all.  Our emphasis is on participation, confidence and enjoyment and not on competition results.

Prize Giving

The annual Prize Giving is held a week or two after the last National Competition. The “Super Star” age group awards are performance based and calculated using points scored at KZN Champs and Nationals; in both Surf and Stillwater disciplines.  The “Best Nipper Over All” Award is also performance based using points scored only.  The other trophies and awards are subjective and based on commitment, dedication, sportsmanship etc.