Sydney Clubbie Hangs Up the Patrol Cap

When the flags were raised on the 2015/16 season late last month a mainstay of the Sydney lifesaving scene was absent for the first time since 1984.

The 2014/15 patrol season was the last for NSW Director of Lifesaving, State Life Member, and Maroubra clubbie John Restuccia who has hung up his cap after an incredible 100% patrol attendance over his three decades as a volunteer.

Why did you choose Maroubra SLSC?

I joined Maroubra because all my mates at school joined the club. My father wanted me to join South Maroubra but in the end I decided to go along with my friends.

As an added bonus Maroubra also had board lockers you could keep your surfboard in for a fee which certainly helped.

Signing up to Maroubra Surf Life Saving Club proved to be a good choice as 6 of the friends I joined with that day are still involved in the club.

What do you remember about your first time on patrol?

I had a patrol captain that was very strict on us and we had a few rescues to attend up at North Maroubra. I got sent up there to help but I don't think I did too much except swim out and make sure people didn’t get themselves into trouble.

I was a typical young person who just did as little as possible, but I made it look like I was doing something.

When you joined as a 15 year old did you expect Surf Life Saving to be such a major part of your life that you would still be heavily involved 30 years later?

No I never thought I would have been involved like I am at present. When I was 17 I stood for the position of chief instructor and I was the youngest in the club to hold the role at the time. After that I got involved as much as I could.

I think the reason I enjoyed becoming so involved within the club was the fact they really looked after me and treated me so well. I have made a lot of close friends at the club and just really want to thank the club for everything they’ve done for me over the years.

How has the Surf Life Saving movement changed since you first became involved?

I think there is no doubt that it has changed a lot. For instance our patrolling members have access to much better equipment, are better educated, and there are more people joining the association who go on to become patrolling members and watch over the public.

Over the years support operations have been the number one growth area and arguably the best improvement lifesaving has on hand for accessing unpatrolled locations. Technology such as jet skis, offshore boats and in the very near future drones will make it safer overall for the public.

I also believe that the awareness and knowledge patrolling members have of their beaches and the attitude of being pro-active rather than reactive is a great thing for the movement.

How different is the lifesaving equipment you used when you first started patrolling in the 80s compared to what’s on offer to our volunteers in 2015?

I think the design of the modern rescue board has certainly changed for the better since I started. In terms of other equipment I think the motors and reliability of the Inflatable Rescue Boats have improved. That’s a noticeable difference.

During your time patrolling is there a particular rescue that stands out in your memory?

I would have to say one that stands out is the mass rescue at Maroubra in February of 1997. In a two-hour period the surf just continued to pick up to over 6 foot and a flash rip occurred. Over 20 people got swept out in the conditions.

As the IRB driver on patrol that day I was involved in rescuing 14 people. I received the National Heroes of The Surf Award for that rescue.

What lessons have you learned about patrolling that you would like to pass on to other lifesavers?

I feel it is incredibly important to be proactive when on patrol but especially on busy days. It’s really beneficial to have your patrol working together as a team, the flags up, knowing where the rips are and just being prepared to have control of the day.

And things can happen quickly. For example at Maroubra it takes just one person swimming in the wrong spot to potentially snowball into a bad situation.

I have seen many rescues over the years and been involved in a lot of them and doing resuscitation on a busy beach is not a good feeling.

Has it sunk in yet that you won’t be patrolling this season?

Not really but the new captain of Patrol 10 is a good leader and I am sure that he will excel. It’s going to be a little strange as I have been captain of that patrol for such a long time but there are a lot of good lifesavers in the club who will do a fantastic job going forward.

As a senior member of the Maroubra club what tips do you give young kids coming through the ranks?

Have a great time and enjoy it because some of the best memories in life can come from a surf club experience.

I certainly have some great mates and experiences of my own.

What has been your highlight as a Surf Lifesaver?

Receiving Life Membership of Maroubra at a young age is something I will never forget.

Any final thoughts?

I have been very proud to wear the red and yellow on Maroubra beach and I hope that young members joining this great association can have that same passion when on patrol wherever that happens to be.

Thu 1 Oct 2015