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Dana richards world life saving championships medals

Navy veteran’s inspiring journey to selection for the Lifesaving World Championships  

In 2022, with Italy as its backdrop, history was made at the Lifesaving World Championships.  A group of veterans, united by their love for lifesaving, service and a passion for sport, came together to compete under the first non-club team, Team Invictus Australia. This team was a result of the unique partnership between Invictus Australia and Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA), a collaboration that is empowering veterans to use surf lifesaving to strengthen their lives post service.  

Part of that team was Navy veteran LEUT Dana Richards, who has been passionate about Surf Life Saving her whole life. Since she competed in Italy, her dedication to the sport has not stopped. She has continued to compete in local and national competitions as she awaits selection for the next Team Invictus Australia, who will compete in this year’s Lifesaving World Championships to be hosted on home turf on the Gold Coast. 


Dana joined the Navy in 1998, beginning her career as a Communications and Information Systems Sailor. Her deployments saw her involved in peacekeeping missions and operations across Southeast Asia and the Antarctic.  

After taking a break from service to raise her family and pursue studies, Dana decided to re-enlist in 2021. She believes she was able to handle the physical and mental side of her Naval Office Entry Course (NEOC) at 45 because she kept active over her years.  

Dana richards world lifesaving championships

a passion for lifesaving

However, Dana’s connection to the water began long before her Navy career. She has been a member of Shellharbour SLSC for a lot of her life, joining in 1982 as a nipper and soon becoming a State and Country medalist in water events. Actively competing until 1991, Dana then took up the sport of Ocean and Open water swimming. In 2010, Dana became a Surf coach and resumed her passion for swim teaching and coaching, in a volunteer capacity. 

In 2022, she travelled to Riccione Italy with Team Invictus Australia. Competing alongside veterans was a career highlight for her and cemented the importance of sport in keeping her mind and body fit for service.  

I love the ocean, it is my happy place and has created a social space for me. I can block out the white noise and not think about anything else. This SLS lifestyle has provided my whole family with healthy coping mechanisms around the sport and the ocean and I plan on being a part of the SLS community for a long time.” 


beyond the 2022 lifesaving world championships

Since her time in Italy, Dana has been posted to WA, finding herself in a new state and new role within the Navy. She used ocean swimming and surf lifesaving to connect with her local community and establish a support network in her new home.  

Within the Navy, she established a base swimming group – HMAS Stirling Swim Squad – to connect with other like-minded people who enjoy swimming. From here, she was able to attempt her lifelong dream, the Rottnest Channel Swim. Despite an amazing performance, rough conditions meant everyone was pulled out of the water at 12km. For Dana, just being there was a massive goal of hers and so rewarding.  

Not wanting to stop the benefits being part of a surf club was giving her, Dana then competed for her new local club, North Cottesloe at the WA SLS State championships. For Dana, this was about more than just her results, it was about testing her mental and physical limits and forming new connections and friendships. She walked away energized by the camaraderie on display, and some great results:  

Individual Events  

  • 2nd place in swim 
  • 2nd place in Ironwoman  
  • 3rd place in Surf ski 

Team Events

  • 1st place in Double Ski  
  • 2nd place in Board Rescue 
Dana Richards world lifesaving championships swimming

Dana continues to work her passion for ocean swimming and lifesaving into her everyday life, competing whenever she can. Her next event see her competing in the Masters Swimming Australia National Championships in the Northern Territory in May.

Inspired by how she has been welcomed at North Cottesloe Surf Club and the wider WA Surf Life Saving community, Dana is hoping to bring these same values to the upcoming training camp being held in May to select Team Invictus Australia for the next Life Saving World Championships.  

about team invictus australia

Team Invictus Australia was born out of the partnership between IA and SLSA, who were granted permission by the International Life Saving Federation to enter a combined military veteran team into the Riccione 2022 Lifesaving World Championships.  

Historically, individual athletes have competed under their club cap at this pinnacle event. However, 2022 marked the first time a non-club team was allowed to enter, with Team Invictus Australia entering a team of 8 military personnel from surf clubs across the country. The team, which included Dana, put on a magnificent display of talent, camaraderie and mateship as they competed in pool, sand and ocean events.  

With the success of the 2022 championships, Team Invictus Australia will be taking part in the 2024 championships on home soil, in the Gold Coast from the 20th of August – 8th of September 2024.  

Expressions of Interest to take part are open until 21st April, 2024. For more information, click here.

World Lifesaving championships 2022 team
LEUT Dana Richards (3rd from left) poses with Team Invictus Australia post 2022 Lifesaving World Championships

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