Meet Surf Life Saver Avani Jagavkar, our next Ballard Young Achiever

Alongside her studies at Sydney University in neuroscience and psychology, she was named the Harry Nightingale Junior Patrol Person of the Year and was the youngest female to be a qualified Inflatable Rescue Boat driver. The Clint Ballard Team sat down with Avani and heard about how Life Saving has had a positive impact on her life. Read more about her below: 

How did you get into Life Saving?

I started near the end of primary school, mainly because I had friends starting around the same time. Initially, I was one of the weaker ones in the group. My swimming ability was average at best and I wasn’t particularly fit. I got into it because I wanted something more physical to do but stuck with it for the sense of community. 

Is a good contrast to your academic life?

Absolutely! I think that’s one of the reasons I’m still involved today. A lot of people tend to drop out around HSC and uni but it was super valuable for me to have something completely independent from school. It also taught me the importance of planning and time management -  there’s time for everything if you’re willing to make it! 

How did it work to progress from Nippers to Surf Life Saving?

The program is set up so that you finish nippers with your Surf Rescue certificate - you get your uniform and are technically qualified as a lifesaver, the trouble is a lot of kids drop out after that. I think I stuck with it because at this point it was still pretty new for me and I was excited to see where else I could go with it. 

I was a lot less involved with the training/competition side than other kids in my cohort and I think I gave me a lot more space to scope out everything else that the club and Surf Life Saving as an organisation had to offer. 

Describe your role at the club?

I competed a little at the beginning but have since become more involved in the IRB division and in education and training of new lifesavers. At a club as busy as Bondi we’re always needing more people so it’s really important to get as many Bronze groups as possible through each season. I’m finishing my official trainer’s qualification at the moment and next season will be my first time as lead trainer of a course. 

Tell us more about the IRB?

The IRB (Inflatable Rescue Boat) is essentially a motorised inflatable boat that we have on stand-by every patrol. A functional IRB is one of the core elements of a patrol group and we’re actually not allowed to sign on a patrol without one. At the moment my job is mainly as crew, I act as a counter-weight for the driver and have to pick up patients, lay buoys etc. It’s actually a pretty physical role, you need to understand how your weight influences the position of the boat and be able to throw yourself around accordingly. 

I got into IRB around 3 years ago. At the time, the division had its first female head and she was a huge influence in my decision to get involved. At the time we probably had less than 10 girls in the division and now we’re over 30. This season alone the club has passed over 25 new crew, shifting the age and gender balances pretty significantly. 

Tell us more about the Young Leader’s Program you were selected for?

The program is focused on developing leadership skills and networking opportunities for kids aged 15-17. Programs like this play a really important role in retaining kids through the transition from nippers to more senior life saving. It was a great opportunity to meet people who held similar roles to me from different clubs across Sydney branch and have a look at different paths I could take from here.

What would be your ultimate goal?

The leadership camp was pretty focused on mapping out the possibilities beyond just club level life saving. At the leadership camp I went to, we talked through all the possibilities beyond the club level - duty officer, support ski, offshore boat and even the Westpac helicopter. With life saving officially recognised as an emergency service, roles like these are becoming more significant. It would be great to get involved in some of the larger-scale rescue operations. I’m also pretty excited about the introduction of patrol drones, I think it would be cool to work with one of them!

Have you been in any dangerous situations?

At Bondi, we’re very big on prevention and not letting people get into that kind of situation where possible, aside from a couple of fairly serious first aids I haven’t been involved in anything too dangerous.

To people who aren't familiar with beaches, especially those from overseas, rips can appear the calmest place to swim. "Backpacker's Rip" is directly in line with the bus stop, making it one of the first areas of water tourists see when they get off the bus. A common misconception is that rips will pull you underneath the water but this isn't the case. Often the safest thing to do is stay calm and wait until the current returns you to the surf zone - or until help arrives.

What would you say is your highlight achievement?

I think the most rewarding thing for me has been being able to see the community grow around me, especially regarding the representation of women in IRB and in lifesaving in general. Its also been great to work my way up through the club and to be at a place where I’m heard, respected and valued. 

What’s your role as a teacher?

The Bronze Medallion course we teach in Surf Lifesaving is different to the pool-based one many people did growing up. We teach CPR, surf awareness, first aid and spinal management, as well as board and surf skills. It’s been especially interesting seeing the diversity of people that come through these courses, having to work through language barriers and vastly different skill levels has been pretty challenging.

What would you say to someone who is considering Surf Life Saving?

It’s definitely one of those situations where you get out what you put in. If you’re willing to put the effort in, you’ll be rewarded with a community that really values you and is prepared to give you the ability to make a difference. 


The Young Achievers is a new program at Ballard Property focusing on up and coming young talents in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. We believe that achievement comes with dedication and hard work, but also with the support of a community. With this in mind, we are looking to support a few talented young people with achieving their dreams. We’d also like to provide them with a platform to discuss what they are setting out to do, and hopefully give them some exposure and position them as role models for other young people.