Clubbie Profile July: Elton Cummings

Our Clubbie Profile for the Month of July is Elton Cummings from Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC. Elton has been part of the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat crew for 45 years and loves the satisfaction of making a difference in the community. Apart from involving himself with the Ballina Jet Boat, Elton has held various positions in the Far North Coast Branch.

Name: Elton Cummings
Surf Life Saving Club: Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC
Career volunteer hours: Too many to count. Just last week I attended more than 10 hours of meetings and forums.
Occupation: CEO of the family business

When did you join Surf Life Saving and why?
In the early 60s when I was about seven or eight years old, my father took me to Nippers and all I remember was receiving a free ice block. My high school instructor was Ian Byrne, a Ballina club member. He trained the school swimming team and made me join the Ballina club. After joining the surf club I gained my Bronze Medallion a short time later in the 1970-71 season.

What is it about Surf Life Saving that you love?
I love all different aspects of Surf Life Saving but most of all the friendships that I’ve formed. I also thoroughly enjoy the variety of work I have become involved in and the opportunity to save lives. Throughout my time in Surf Life Saving I have held many positions including driving IRBs, RWCs and the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat, crewing on the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters and participating in surf carnivals at all levels.

Why did you become involved with the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat?
When I was young I worked behind the Jet Boat Captain’s workshop in Ballina. He asked if I was able to be on-call to attend search and rescue operations and I was fortunate that my father allowed me to leave work when incidents arose. I have been involved with the Jet Boat for 45 years and I’m currently the Treasurer and very proud of where the service is today.

How has Surf Life Saving in the Far North Coast changed since you joined?
Clubs and the Branch are more coordinated, integrated and willing to help each other and the pathways to gain a variety of training qualifications have evolved. I’ve also watched the continued development of rescue techniques and equipment, from the surf reel to IRBs, RWCs, JRBs and rescue helicopters. The introduction of the Duty Officer System has given us the ability to run a large search and rescue operations which has been great.

For surf lifesavers who don’t know much about Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC, tell us about your club.
Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore was a leading club in IRB competition and development of lifesaving equipment and techniques. The fellowship of going to carnivals and doing patrols was some of the best days of my life. I miss those days, as I have moved onto Branch activities and have held various positions.

Favourite memory as a surf lifesaver?
Starting the North Coast Rescue Helicopter in our area with a crew from Ballina surf club and looking at it today and all the lives that have been saved and people helped is amazing. Another great moment was winning the inaugural Australian IRB Gold Medal for the Rescue Tube Event in 1986. But the best thing is the satisfaction of saving or helping to make a difference to people when they are in trouble.

Favourite beach that isn’t yours?
There are so many great beaches along the coastline of NSW but I would have to pick Flat Rock near Ballina.

Who is someone you admire in the Surf Life Saving movement and why?
An old lifesaver Gordon McNaughton has been a mentor to me and I wish I had met him earlier in my lifesaving career.

Anything else you would like to add?
Over the years I have asked so much of the community and lifesavers, and I will never be able to repay or thank them for their generosity in time and funding. Thank you to everyone in the community and Surf Life Saving.

Photo above: David Fields, Elton Cummings and two Taiwanese lifeguards at a Cudgen Headland SLSC carnival.

Photo: Elton Cummings at the 2015 Far North Coast Branch awards night.

Wed 29 Jul 2015