Surf Life Saving Queensland have revitalised their long-standing Surf Girl program by refreshing the brand to create the new Surf Woman of the Year program and award to celebrate the state’s most outstanding women in surf life saving.
Applications for the Surf Woman of the Year close on Thursday, and the winner of the award will receive a prize package worth $20,000.
Surf Clubs across Queensland nominate an outstanding female member from their club who is over the age of 18 and who holds a bronze surf life saving medallion.
The winner will be chosen from eight finalists, who must fundraise $5000 for their local surf club.
The Surf Woman of the Year program will begin in 2021 and entrants will be responsible for representing the surf life saving movement in the community, by promoting surf safety, fundraising and taking on leadership roles in their local clubs.
The aim of the program is to further women both within and outside of the surf lifesaving community creating strong female leaders in Queensland. The winner is selected based upon their excellence within the program.
The award is based on the original Surf Girl program, which has raised more than $17 million for surf life saving clubs across Queensland over the past 56 years, and is intended to carry on in the same tradition of providing opportunities for women in the surf life saving community.
Surf Life Saving Queensland chief executive officer Dave Whimpey said the new award ushered a new dawn for the Surf Girl program while acknowledging the program’s past.
“The 2021 Surf Woman of the Year program is modern, while recognising the important traditions of our past,” Mr Whimpey said.
“We have refreshed the name and program itself after careful consideration and consultation with our key stakeholders and former Surf Girls,” he said.
“We hope more young women from all across our great state will feel encouraged to apply for Surf Woman of the Year.”
Surf Life Saving Queensland media and communications manager Josie Fielding said the award would empower young women across the state to become the next generation of leaders in the community.
“[The program] creates incredible female leaders across the state,” Ms Fielding said.
“Not only that, but they will unify different clubs cause of the incredible relationships and bonds they form,” she said.
“We have 57 clubs across Queensland, so it’s really important for them to have connection and we feel with this program that they will.”
The announcement in August of the new Surf Woman of the Year program and award meant that 2020 is the final year of the Surf Girl program in its traditional form.
This year’s Surf Girl award winner was Sonita Leng-Cole from Alexandra Heads Surf Club.
Ms Leng-Cole has been involved in life saving for 18 years and said she was motivated to be a part of the Surf Girl program because mentors at her surf club had taken part in the program in past years.
“I watched a lot of my mentors go through [the program] and they’ve all come through the other side with a lot of personal professional development, and a lot of love and reignited passion for the organisation,” she said.
Ms Leng-Cole said she encouraged any women who were passionate about the surf life saving cause to get involved with the program.
“Get out of your comfort zone, do it and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” she said.
“If you go in a little hesitant, you’ll grow as a person, a community member and a club member, and you’ll come out the other side passionate and in love with what you’re doing.”
Applications for the 2021 Surf Woman of the Year award close on September 10.
Visit the Surf Lifesaving Queensland website for more information or to apply.