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Australian beaches are well-known for their propensity to attract English tourists, but it was an unusually high-profile Englishman who visited North Wollongong Beach last Saturday 14 September.

Surf Life Saving NSW Illawarra hosted none other than His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex at North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club. As Royal-watchers know, Prince Edward is Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son and is currently touring Australia.

Prince Edward is in Australia to commemorate 60 years of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. He was particularly interested in speaking to some of Surf Life Saving’s youth members who have joined the movement to satisfy the volunteer component of the Duke of Edinburgh Award program. There is direct alignment between Surf Life Saving and one of the challenges of Duke of Edinburgh award; that is to be a responsible, caring member of the community.

The Prince couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day to visit North Wollongong SLSC. Arriving by official motorcade, the Prince was greeted by Surf Life Saving officials including; Illawarra Branch President Peter Evert; Maria Caldwell, Director of Member Services; North Wollongong SLSC President David Meredith; Holly Holmesby from Bulli SLSC; Kara Osgood from Sandon Point SLSC and Matt Logan from Coalcliff SLSC.

Illawarra Branch President Peter Evert said he was surprised how relaxed the Prince was with the volunteers and Nippers.

“It was really great, he went straight to the crowd when he got out of the car. He was very laid back and more than happy to chat with lifesavers,” said Peter Evert.

Photos courtesy Pat Maloney - North Wollongong SLSC

Kara Osgood from Sandon Point SLSC was one of three young lifesavers from the Duke of Edinburgh Award program chosen to meet Prince Edward. 

“He was a great person, very genuine. He really wanted to speak to as many people as possible while he was there,” said Kara Osgood.

“I was able to speak to him about how I had joined Surf Life Saving as part of the service component of the Duke of Edinburgh Award and how it had sparked my passion for community service,” said Kara Osgood.

Prince Edward was also met by a throng of enthusiastic Nippers who were steadfast in their determination to get the Prince in the water for a swim between the flags. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the Prince had forgotten his boardshorts. Undeterred, a young nipper suggested the Prince could “strip off and go in”. Needless to say, a swim didn’t eventuate.

Photos courtesy Pat Maloney - North Wollongong SLSC

“The Prince was just so personable. He had clearly read-up on what surf lifesaving is all about and asked some great questions. He was really relaxed and just loved meeting the Nippers. Although I don’t think any of them really knew who he was,” said Maria Caldwell.

The Prince was eager to speak to the young volunteer surf lifesavers who were clearly excited to chat with him about their passion for lifesaving. He met with a large group of about 23 young lifesavers from across the 17 Illawarra surf clubs and by all accounts was genuinely interested in hearing about their experiences as volunteers. He even posed for a group photograph which, according to those in the know, is highly unusual and not standard Royal protocol.

Photos courtesy Pat Maloney - North Wollongong SLSC

According to Maria Caldwell, Prince Edward mentioned that he had been given the opportunity to become a lifesaver in Scotland. However, he had politely declined due to the temperature of the water. Perhaps seeing an opportunity, North Wollongong SLSC president David Meredith presented Prince Edward with an official Surf Life Saving patrol uniform and a competition cap. We hope David took the opportunity to sign the Prince up for active patrol duty too.

Photos courtesy Pat Maloney - North Wollongong SLSC


Wednesday 18 September 2019