Retiring surf life saver Neville Warwick has dedicated 62 years of his life to the cause.
Retiring surf life saver Neville Warwick has dedicated 62 years of his life to the cause. Leigh Jensen

Neville signs off after 62 summers on life saving beach duty

IMAGINE dedicating 62 years of your life to a cause.

A marriage, a job or membership of a club or whatever ... 62 years of endless focus and dedication is almost something beyond belief.

Well, that's what Bellinger Valley - North Beach Surf Life Saving Club member Neville Warwick has done.

At 1pm today, Nev signed off from his last official patrol duty after 62 summers as an active surf life saver and watching out for swimmers at his beloved stomping ground at Mylestom.

Family and friends arrived to celebrate 62 unbroken years of community care and for this special occasion, club secretary Rebecca Fieldes conducted an interview with the man of the moment.


RF: Neville, how many years have you been involved in the service?

NW: I have been in the Bellinger Valley - North Beach Surf Life Saving movement for 62 consecutive years and I have enjoyed every one of those years.

RF: How has life saving changed over those years?

NW: Well, for a start ... there is way too much paperwork these days.

RF: What was you most positive surf life saving experience?

NW: I have a couple of experiences, actually, in which I really had enjoyment over the years. These include running the surf boats, starting up the nippers and mermaids with my wife Thel and holding carnivals at North Beach. And not forgetting the fun we had with the competitors and their families on the away trips to carnivals.

RF: In what way have the rules and regulations changed?

NW: These days they are too strict with the volunteers. There are heaps more regulations these days but I guess this is for the better.

RF: Have beach conditions changed?

NW: In all the time that I have been here at North Beach, there has not been considerable change. The conditions of the beach are the same, however, maybe a little more sand these days.

RF: Let's discuss recruitment - is it easier to get volunteers now? And how has the popularity of surf life saving varied over the years?

NW: It's harder to recruit these days. But it has been easier to recruit women to the movement and I personally think they make better life savers (he smiles). In 1980, women were introduced into the movement and gained their Bronze medallion. This allowed women to be given equal opportunities such as patrols and taking part in competition within the movement. I think this was the most positive move as today we can see the high level of standards that Australia has provided us with. It should be noted our club had five women gain their Bronze in 1980, and it is believed that we were the first club in Australia to hold this honour.

RF: On the personal side, how were you introduced to life saving?

NW: A few local lads thought that it would be a great idea to get together - blokes like Reg and Ken Griffith, Billy Singleton and Jimmy Waldren - and we decided to start the club. So back in 1951, we first set about getting the surf club built. So here we are today, with some of us still participating within the movement.

RF: Tell me how many beaches have you patrolled?

NW: I am proud to say ... one ... my beloved North Beach in the township of Mylestom.

RF: What positions have you held?

NW: I have held several over my time with the club. These include president, treasurer, club captain, trainer and assessor, branch committee member and fund raiser. I was offered life memberships from both North Coast Branch and Bellinger Valley - North Beach.

RF: What was your favourite position - and why?

NW: my time as club captain because you really get to interact with all the patrolling members. I really enjoyed giving my time to the members, offering my knowledge and experiences to the up-and-coming young members. This was so they can enjoy their time at the beach and be aware of the risks associated with the surf, while making the beach safe for the general public.

RF: Any amusing or interesting events while on patrol you'd care to recall?

NW: The most interesting and fun thing was organising a carnival at North Beach, and organising transport and camping to attend a carnival at other beaches. A few years back we would also have novelty events at our carnivals such as pillow fights up on an escalated pole, or the snake race, where competitors had to run around pegs 10 times and then run a 100m sprint. That was very funny.

RF: Do you have any family in the surf life saving present or past?

NW: All of my children and my wife were at one time members of Bellinger Valley - North Beach.

RF: Anything else you would like to add?

NW: I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Bellingen Shire community for all their support in the past. It is great to see the young ones helping out on the club's biggest event of the year, the New Year's Day beach breakfast. And I would love to see more club competitors competing at carnivals and more than anything I would like to see the club host another carnival at North Beach in the next few years.

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