The Rayward family reflect a modern trend in surf lifesaving: the kids join Nippers, mum and dad like the concept, gain their bronze medallion and compete at Masters level.
In this case, though, mum excels and wins Queensland and Australian titles.
Kurrawa all-rounder Cathryn Rayward, 39, successfully defended her titles at the Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships at the Sunshine Coast, picking up two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
Husband Ben, a 41-year-old who dipped his toes in the water at the State titles for the first time last year, came back for another go and proudly walked away with a fifth placing in the 130+ Years Male Surf Ski Relay.
Like so many “Nipper parents”, they have turned back the fitness clock after catching the lifesaving bug.
Cathryn was a Nipper as a child but she drifted away after her high school days because of the commitment to work and family.
“It wasn’t until our eldest daughter started Nippers that I came back to surf,” she said.
“When I was growing up, girls didn’t paddle skis so it’s exciting to be able to learn new skills.”
Cathryn was a national-level pool swimmer at school then dabbled in running and triathlon before heading back to swimming and surf six years ago.
After claiming four golds at the State Titles last year, she went on to claim gold in the 35- to 39-Years Rescue Tube Race and silver in the 2km Run at the Aussie championships.
Ben didn’t have any surf lifesaving experience as a child – he grew up on a chicken farm in rural NSW – but was a state-level rower and played rugby union.
“I didn’t have any exposure to surf lifesaving until our eldest child started Nippers,” he said. “As Cathryn and the children were involved, it looked like a great family activity and lifestyle for us all to be involved in.”
Ben concedes Cathryn has him covered when it comes to swimming and running.
“I specialise in ski paddling and am a bit of a one-trick pony,” he said.
And it seems he will have to start looking over his shoulder.
The Raywards’ children Jasmine, 11, Bianca, 9, and Dane, 8, were their respective age champions at Kurrawa this season, while youngest child Elke, 7, is waiting to follow in their footsteps.
Cathryn said her family thrived in the surf lifesaving environment.
“We love how our club involves people of all ages and abilities,” she said. “At Kurrawa, we have a great family environment and community and our masters and juniors all train alongside our elites. We choose to make surf lifesaving a large part of our life – we love the benefit to our community, family and sporting goals.”
The family members train in the pool five sessions a week, in the surf four times a week and for good measure, have two running sessions.
“It really is a family-friendly lifestyle, all getting up at 4.30am,” Cathryn said.
It is a hectic schedule but one the Rayward family would not change.
“The children feel like Kurrawa surf club is their home,” Cathryn said.
- Republished with permission from Gold Coast Bulletin