Tribute to a great man
By BRUCE LAWLER
and JOSH CHIVERS
FAMILY and friends met in Coffs Harbour recently to celebrate the life of a great man and a great lifesaver, Geoff O'Brien.
Sadly, Geoff or 'GOB' to his mates, passed away on April 11.
The surf club community has been privileged to know this great man and take great pleasure in informing the community of his life and community-minded deeds.
Geoff was a lifesaver at heart.
Since the early eighties he kept Coffs Surf Club running and prior to this he was a driving force at North Curl Curl Surf Club
Coffs Harbour Surf Club captain Jamie Marschke said anyone who knew Geoff was aware that he gave 110 per cent to life saving and the surf club movement.
Geoff performed many heroic rescues in big seas usually attached to a surf reel and line.
Anyone who has done this knows it's a tough and very dangerous job swimming with a few hundred metres of rope line attached to you.
Geoff thought nothing of himself on these occasions, he had a job to do.
Our friend Geoff spent his early years growing up on Sydney's Northern Beaches and in particular in and around the North Curl Curl Surf Life saving Club.
Geoff's record with the North Curl Curl Club spanned a period of 33 years during which he held the positions of gear steward, secretary, assistant secretary, club captain, president, building committee secretary, carnival organiser and vice president.
The North Curl Curl Club awarded Geoff life membership in 1975 and the club's honour blazer in the 1981/82 season.
Geoff was the carnival organiser for the 1980/81 State carnival at North Curl Curl.
As younger man, Geoff also excelled in rugby league, playing for the Manly Warringah Club and spending a few seasons playing in the country.
His other passion was cricket.
He played for the Harbord Diggers Cricket Club for many years and has also been awarded life membership of that club.
Geoff accepted a transfer to Coffs Harbour through his work with the Otis Elevator Company in 1984 and on his arrival in town made a beeline to the Coffs Harbour Surf Club to continue his service to surf life saving.
By joining the Coffs Harbour Club, Geoff commenced another 21 years dedicated service holding the positions of secretary, club captain (arguably the oldest in NSW), treasurer and president.
He was also carnival organiser, chairman of the house committee, treasurer of the 'Old Boys', marchpast team coach and club licensee.
Geoff was awarded life membership of the Coffs Harbour Surf Club during the 1995/96 season and has also received both his 25 and 50 year Surf Life saving service pins.
Geoff was the epitome of the great club man.
He had no higher ambition than to see his club run smoothly and to successfully provide for the patrolling and younger members.
He was an efficient organiser and delegator and was the only one who could go home after a three day carnival without washing his hands.
He said to one of his vice-presidents 'You do the walking, I'll do the talking.'
His labour of love was, of course, the Friday night raffles at the Greenhouse Tavern to raise money for the surf club a regime he maintained until two weeks prior to his passing.
A few years ago Geoff took on coach of the Coffs Surf Club march past.
After some initial reticence, he agreed to do so and laid down his training requirements.
This commenced one of the most enjoyable love-hate relationships between 13 people our club has ever witnessed.
Very few had marched before and no-one escaped the 'wrath of Geoff'.
He would never admit it but the pleasure he derived running from pole to pole (yes, running) bellowing at the reel part or the backline, telling Barnsey he wouldn't make a beltman's 'big toe', all contributed to keeping him out and about as his health deteriorated.
He was quietly overwhelmed when the girls christened the team 'The Goblins'.
The smile on his face after gaining a silver medal at the Queensland State titles said it all.
If you've been to Curl Curl or Coffs Surf Club and swam safely you are a witness to Geoff's legacy.
Geoff has touched many people and turned countless young men and women into lifesavers who patrol the beaches around our shores.
Geoff, you leave us now to return to your beloved surf club in the sky.
You go with all our blessings and in the words of one of your proteges, 'happy days'.