SERVICE RECOGNISED: After more than four decades in surf lifesaving, Alistair 'Slim' Peebles has been awarded life membership by Surf Life Saving NSW.
SERVICE RECOGNISED: After more than four decades in surf lifesaving, Alistair 'Slim' Peebles has been awarded life membership by Surf Life Saving NSW. Trevor Veale

Slim's 40 years in surf earns life membership honour

HEADING down to Avoca Beach in the summer of 1974-75 to take his son to nippers started an association with surf lifesaving that has lasted more than four decades for Alistair 'Slim' Peebles.

Slim's long service at Avoca Beach, and over the past decade at Woolgoolga, has led to the 72 year-old being awarded life membership by Surf Life Saving NSW.

The Corindi resident admitted to being surprised when he was told of the honour being bestowed upon him.

"I got a bit of a shock because I've always been a rebel without a cause and I thought I'd upset more people than I've done good for because I'm a loud mouth,” Slim said.

"I thought surely they can find somebody else who deserves it more than me.”

In fact being a State Life Member was never a thought in the grandfather- of-five's mind.

"I'd say 99% of the blokes and women don't join the surf movement to get awards,” he said.

"They join it for their kids, they join it for their mates, they join it for competition and for having fun and all of a sudden someone nominates you.”

Since moving to the northern beaches 10 years ago, Slim has maintained his passion for the movement and has always been available to lend a hand.

"I just turn up and help,” he said.

"I pop down to Woolgoolga all the time as an official or at Red Rock.

"I help the North Coast Boat Series and I go to State and help there. You just stay involved and I've enjoyed my time in it.”

For Slim, helping others is a trait that makes lifesaving clubs so great.

"I've loved it, the companionship and the camaraderie,” he said.

"And what I've found over the 40 or so years is that the people who stay in it are all givers, they're not takers.

"If they can help you out, they'll help you out. Just moral support, any sort of support.”

While he's spent many summers as an active patrol member, and held several executive positions at club and branch level, it was the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 in Indonesia that left a huge impact on Slim.

He was in the area only a fortnight before the tragedy and it motivated him and fellow Avoca Beach life member John Mitchell to be the driving force behind an initiative to deliver a program about safety and beach culture to Thai locals in Phuket and Phi Phi Island.

"That was the most rewarding time of my life,” Slim said.

"We had lifeguards trained up over there doing the translation for us because the kids didn't understand our English.

"There was 86 kids.

"In the first half an hour they wouldn't go in the water. Four and a half hours later we couldn't get them out.

"They'd been brought up hearing about monsters - they can't swim so they drown and they say it's a monster that dragged you underneath. That's just the way the Thais explain it.

"We started off with wades, then we had kickboards, then we had a bit of swimming. We had flags and sprints.

"Four hours later they're out on the rescue boards.

"The water there is shallow. About 30 or 40 yards off the shore it's only up to chest height and they were pushing each other off the boards and jumping on them and I thought, 'how good is this'.”

The program has continued to evolve and Slim has made several trips overseas to continue training and delivering equipment, and Thai lifeguards have also come to Australia to enhance their skills and experiences.

Slim has recently sold his Corindi home and is preparing to move west to Bingara, far from the surf he's loved for so many years.

"I'll definitely miss it there's no ifs, ands or buts,” he said.

"But it's only a three and a half hour drive over the hill. I'll come over for the boat series every now and again and go down to the state titles.”



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