Garry Meredith’s passion for Surf Life Saving won’t be measured by achievements.
The Evans Head Casino SLSC member was announced as the inaugural Support Operations Member of the Year at the Surf Life Saving NSW Awards of Excellence on Saturday night but, while humbled to be the first person to receive this recognition, he is focused on bigger and better things.
As a Far North Coast Branch Duty Officer since the position was established in the early 2000’s, Garry is committed to the long-term future of clubs across the region.
He clocked up almost 500 hours of volunteer service last season for his club and the branch Support Operations group, including regular jetski patrols, and has been a member of multiple clubs along the coast when they’ve needed him the most.
And yet, staring down the barrel of his 40th year volunteering, he can’t see himself doing anything else.
“It’s funny isn’t it, I think it’s around 40 years I’ve been involved, there’s been a few times I’ve said to myself ‘Is it time?’,” he mused.
“I just can’t give it up, though. I think it’s in my blood.
“I love being involved, helping people in the community, it’s a great feeling.”
Support Operations is an important and growing arm of Surf Life Saving NSW, allowing for the expansion of the reach of patrolling lifesavers beyond the traditional red and yellow flags.
Support Operation units can reach potentially high-risk areas that would not usually fall under the remit of a lifesaver on patrol, and can include the use of Rescue Water Craft (RWC), Jet Rescue Boats (JRB), and Offshore Rescue Boats (ORB).
“This equipment has certainly played a big part in how we do things now,” Garry said.
Of equal importance to Garry, particularly when dealing with smaller clubs, is the mentoring and training of junior volunteers.
“They can learn from me, I think,” he said.
“The big part for me is protecting the young ones. As a group up here, as a support service, we are very careful – especially for jobs that come in after patrol hours or in off season – that we pick the right people for each job.
“At the end of the day up and-coming lifesavers need exposure but you try to protect them as well. It’s a balance you need to find so we can keep them coming back.
“You can also identify with the younger ones and after you get to know them you can see where they could be best suited, where you think they’d stand out.
“It’s just a matter of talking to them and helping them.”
FAR NORTH COAST WINNERS
Amber Whipple, Byron SLSC – Lifeguard of the Year
Michael Pontefract, Evans Head Casino SLSC – Patrol Captain of the Year
Garry Meredith, Evans Head Casino SLSC – Support Operations Member of the Year
Wednesday 1 September 2021