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On Monday November 18, John Holt from Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club was inducted into the NSW Hall of Champions at the NSW Champions of Sport Ceremony.

The Awards ceremony saw six NSW sports greats inducted into the NSW Hall of Champions - including Rugby League legend Bradley Clyde and basketballer Lauren Jackson.

Sporting icons such as Don Bradman, Dawn Fraser, Shane Gould and Dally Messenger are included in this prestigious list. More recent champions include Ian Thorpe and Layne Beachley.

John Holt joined Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club in 1967 when he was just 16 years-old. He’s now a Life Member.

“I was just an age group swimmer and very fortunately my father bought me a surfboard when I was just 10 and I used to paddle that like crazy,” said John Holt.

“So, when I joined the surf club, I was pretty good on the board and I was swimming quite well and all of a sudden I started winning races and I saw my name in the Sunday papers.

“I thought this is pretty good cause I wasn't much good at anything else. 

“Then I realised how good I was at it and it became an obsession with me. The training became obsessive and the more I trained, the more I won and that was as simple as it was,” said John.

Surf Life Saving NSW Life Member, Ian Goode said that when John Holt joined as a junior, he was outstanding. 

“He was an unbelievable trainer. He had a technique where he used to sit for hours and hours in the surf just getting hit with the waves on a ski to get really good a ski paddling. And it paid off,” said Ian Goode.

John Holt went on to dominate Surf Life Saving’s Ironman competition in the 1970s. He was recognised as one of the fittest athletes in the country.

In a 10-year career, John competed in 123 Ironman races - with 95 wins, 11 seconds and eight third places.

In 1970 he won the New South Wales and Australian Junior Championships. A year later he became Australia’s first world Ironman champion.

His second world Ironman title came in South Africa in 1974 where he also won the World Surf Teams Race and a bronze medal in the Individual World Surf Race Championships.

John finished in the top three positions in five Australian Ironman championships, winning the title in 1977. He also won five NSW Ironman championships.

An outstanding all-rounder in all surf disciplines, John won over 100 championships medals. He represented Australia in four World Championships winning three gold and one bronze medal.

John was a leader and innovator in relation to equipment. John had the first ever Coolite Malibu board in NSW, handmade to his specifications. The following season Ken Morton organized sponsorship for ten similar boards for the other Malibu paddlers in the club.

“I decided I’d make my own board. I had a great board shaper named Peter Glasson, who is a famous board shaper and a schoolmate of mine,” said John.

“The board I made was fantastic and a kilo lighter than any other board. I didn’t let anyone else touch it. It was the first Coolite board,” he said.

In March 2004, John’s outstanding record was recognised by Surf Life Saving Australia when he was one of the twenty-two surf athletes, who were honoured with inaugural induction to the Surf Life Saving Australia Hall of Fame. The other Ironmen inducted along with John were, Barry Rodgers, Ken Vidler, Grant Kenny and Trevor Hendy.

In 2014 John was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal for Service to Sport, Surf Life Saving, Triathlon Competition, Administration and Media.

A pioneer, today’s Ironmen still use John's cross-training methods.

John introduced high-performance wave skis into Australia and developed the now standard Nipper race board (a scaled-down version of the traditional Surf Life Saving race board) designed for young competitors. 

 “I had some kids in Nippers I was coaching who were paddling hopeless boards. And I thought, that’s not the board they should be using so I designed a board that was vastly superior,” he said.

John was a driving-force in the development of triathlon New South Wales and the Kurnell triathlon series and was an outstanding Masters triathlete winning major events in 1986 and 1987.

As a media commentator, John became the voice of the Uncle Toby's Ironman series.

John was inducted into the Surf Life Saving Australia Hall of Fame in 2004.

In recent years John’s expertise in development and administration of Surf Sport has been further acknowledged. 

Since 2000 John has served as an advisor to Surf Life Saving NSW in developing the NSW Premiership Series and in 2005, John was elected by Surf Life Saving Australia to the prestigious Board of Surf Sports. John’s role on this board was to assist in developing a new professional Ironman series for television. 

“I love Surf Life Saving and all things about it. I think what sets lifesaving apart from all other sports is that the athletes give back to the community. Invariably you’ll find that when there are big rescues, a surf sports athlete was involved in the rescue,” said John Holt.

President of Surf Life Saving NSW, George Shales, congratulated John Holt on his remarkable career in surf sports, his continuing dedication to Surf Life Saving and his induction into the NSW Hall of Champions. 

“John Holt’s contribution over the past fifty years to the Surf Life Saving movement has been tremendous and still continues today. John is actively involved in training our Nippers to be future athletes,” said George Shales.

“It was an absolute honour to be present at the NSW Sports Awards event when John was inducted into the Hall of Champions, alongside other distinguished sporting individuals,” Shales concluded.


Friday 22 November 2019