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When one starry eyed Nipper and his proud parents complete the registration papers at Bulli SLSC on Saturday he will not only be continuing a family tradition, but will be making history becoming a fourth generation lifesaver to belong to the same club in the same season.

Four generations of the Caldwell family

These days the name Caldwell is synonymous with Bulli SLSC but season 2017-18 will be extra special for the family as patriarch Mal, his son and club president Keith, and grandson Jamie will be joined in the maroon and yellow cap by five-year-old Taj in his first season of Nippers.

The Caldwell’s long association with Bulli SLSC stretches back to 1975. Australia in that year was a very different place. Colour television was finally being broadcast into people’s lounge rooms, Gough Whitlam was enjoying his last few months as PM, and Mal and Claire Caldwell would move into the sleepy Illawarra region with their teenage son Keith.

Mal was no stranger to Surf Life Saving having been involved at South West Rocks as a registrar and gear steward throughout the 1960s. Determined not to let his passion diminish he quickly found himself on the beach at Bulli where he was quickly joined by his 15-year-old son.

Mal proved to be a hard-working volunteer, a respected club man forever putting his hand up for whatever activity was required, and even now in his 92nd year and having retired to the North Coast remains involved as club patron.

Beginning his time at Bulli as a cadet Keith Caldwell showed an aptitude for surf sports early on as he rose through the ranks enjoying enormous success as a board paddler and ironman competition winning medals at a state and national level.

His interest in sport and lifesaving never waned as he went on to coach and manage Illawarra, NSW, and Australian representative teams.

This season also marks a milestone for Keith who celebrates his 15th season as president of Bulli. Throughout his time in Surf Life Saving he has received many accolades including Life Member of his club, branch and in 2015 his state just some of his incredible achievements.

The surf has been a constant presence in the Caldwell household with Keith’s wife Maria also a passionate volunteer. Among her many roles she has served on the management committee at Bulli for the past 14 seasons, been a competition secretary, surf guard coordinator, assistant secretary, and registrar while also being heavily involved at Branch level where she is the current Illawarra Member Services Director.

Just as Mal instilled a love of Surf Life Saving in Keith, so too did Keith and Maria pass it on to their son Jamie.

Jamie Caldwell (Keith’s son) has entrenched his own name in surf club history. Jamie competed for Bulli during its greatest period, winning medals as part of Matt Freeman’s belt & rescue tube rescue teams at State and National level. Jamie also placed 3rd as a young Champion Life Saver at the NSW Championships in 2005. At the World Championships (known as Rescue 2006) he was a member of the Bulli SLSC team that created history in winning the Simulated Emergency Rescue Competition. Jamie has also been awarded Illawarra Surf Life Saver of the Year 2006 and Education Trainer of the Year 2017.

Jamie is very passionate about surf lifesaving and sees education as the priority to making sure new and current members are trained in the most professional way ensuring they receive a good understanding of any facets of being a surf life saver.

As little Taj signs on at the club his great grandfather, grandfather, and father are all proud members of it is fair to say that Bulli blood runs through his veins.

It was left to Keith Caldwell to sum it up best.

“Surf Life Saving has been a great love for our family, we have meet so many nice people we now call friends for life, we have travelled to many great places and have received some great awards (but that is not what we do it for), memories for a life time and now to see my grandson joining the club it is something pretty special.”

Yes it is special indeed and it is stories like that of the Caldwell’s that make Surf Life Saving more than just an organisation. At it’s very core it’s about family and heart two factors that can never be underestimated.


Friday 6 October 2017