Skip to main content

Although it was almost two decades after obtaining his Bronze Medallion before he would return to the beach in a formal capacity, Coalcliff’s Robert Deacon has certainly made up for lost time by enthusiastically throwing himself into his club.

The qualified teacher has now been club captain for 9 seasons, initiated the successful Triple Crown, helped establish a thriving social scene with the Bombie Bar that has raised much needed funds for the club, and in his spare time has joined the Illawarra Branch Support Operations team.

And now the popular club member who was attracted to the surf for the fitness and lifestyle has added another achievement to his burgeoning CV; SLSNSW November Profile of the Month.  

When did you join Surf Life Saving and what appealed to you about it?

I gained my bronze medallion in 1985 at Port Kembla Surf Club as part of my Bachelor of Physical Education course at Wollongong University. I never patrolled for any club after that.

Then in 2003, while I was training on Coalcliff beach, in the hope of becoming an Ocean Lifeguard in my school holidays, a local suggested I join the surf club so that I could access the club's facilities.

So I guess the fitness side of things and the possibility of being a lifeguard lifesaver is what appealed to me at the time as well as the location. Coalcliff is a beautiful place to spend time at.

Surf Life saving also complements my job as a PE teacher. Because I hold a Bronze Medallion I am able to teach swimming in the school pool, take surf awareness groups for school sport, run kayaking and snorkelling expeditions and run my school camp. Most teachers in NSW are not allowed to do these things. My teaching background has also helped me to perform my roles in the surf club.

Can you tell us about your time in Surf Life Saving and some of the roles that you have undertaken at both club and branch level?

I never dreamed that I would become so involved in surf lifesaving. I have been club captain of Coalcliff SLSC for 9 seasons. I have run nipper water safety, fitness sessions on Wednesday evenings for club members, and initiated and organised the Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown was three events that were designed to keep club members fitness levels high and create a sense of competition, fun friendship and family in the club, while taking advantage of the iconic landmarks close to Coalcliff including the Seacliff Bridge.

The Seacliff Bridge to Boatshed Run, The Rod Stevens Memorial Paddle the Beach to Bombie swim and the Coalcliff Black Iron Person Events now make up the The Triple Crown. I have attended Illawarra Surf Life Saving Management Committee Meetings in my role as Club Captain and I have gained my RWC (Jet Ski) Award and am now a member of Illawarra Support Operations.

Learning to drive the Jet Ski and maintain my skill levels has been the most challenging thing that I have done in surf life saving.  I hold the Liquor Licence for Coalcliff SLSC and helped start The Bombie Bar which was a musical venue at the club which attracted some of Australia's finest musicians on a Sunday afternoon and helped raise significant funds for the club.

What is unique about Coalcliff SLSC and are there any unique challenges that the club faces?

Coalcliff is a uniquely beautiful place. Every time that I am down there I look at that backdrop and pinch myself. It is a very small township and this means that the majority of members do not live in the town itself. We do not have large numbers of patrolling members but we have managed to maintain six whole day patrols for many seasons now.

While it is an ongoing struggle to maintain our required level of awards across the patrols season after season, but somehow we mange to do it and have kept the required patrolling hours of our volunteers at reasonable levels.

The tourism created by the nearby Seacliff Bridge is meaning that Coalcliff is becoming better known and as a result, the crowds on the beach are increasing from season to season. There are obvious challenges that will come with this in future seasons.

Could you describe what you are most looking forward to about the 2017/18 season?

I enjoy the time spent with family and friends on the beach. I look forward to this as well as seeing life saving operations running smoothly throughout the season.

The thing I most enjoy is arriving each Sunday morning, an hour or so before everyone else, and setting up the patrol room and then taking the ATV for a run to the Northern End of the beach to put out a rescue board, and finding that I have this beautiful place to myself. 

What are your goals within Surf Life Saving?

Pretty simple. Improve my skills on the Jet Ski and continue my involvement with Coalcliff SLSC to help keep it successful as a club. But 15 years ago I couldn't have predicted where I would be today so who knows what the future holds. But I am sure it will be rewarding.

Who is someone you admire in the Surf Life Saving movement and why?

There are so many people including Leo Stevens, Dave Winner, Nyrelle Guyatt who are all Coalcliff people. But if I did have to single someone out it would probably be Barry Allen. He has given a lifetime to surf life saving and continues to do so. He was the wise counsel when I first became club captain that I always went to for advice.

What is your favourite beach that isn’t yours?

Treachery Beach, Seal Rocks.

Finally, what has been your best memory so far as a Surf Life Saving?

So many but I guess winning the first ever Triple Crown Title in 2010 / 11. I worked so hard to win that thing and it is a memory that will always make me smile.


Thursday 30 November 2017