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The achievements of Surf Life Saving NSW’s finest were celebrated at the annual Surf Life Saving NSW Awards of Excellence on Saturday 29 August. Over 180 finalists, along with their friends, family and the wider Surf Life Saving community, took part in the virtual awards ceremony.

The annual Awards of Excellence event celebrates the outstanding achievements of volunteer surf lifesavers across surf sports, education, administration, membership and lifesaving. 

This year, the awards were hosted virtually due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. The state’s top surf lifesavers were honoured in front of their peers with members from across NSW joining the virtual event via live streaming.

Central Coast Surf Life Saving Clubs and members cleaned up on the night, picking up six major awards including Branch of the Year, with Umina Beach SLSC winning three awards including Patrol of the Year and the prestigious Club of the Year award (for the second year in a row). Umina’s Kai Darwin won Youth Surf Lifesaver of the Year for the second year in a row - a terrific back-to-back achievement for the young surf lifesaver. 

Umina Beach SLSC continues to make significant inroads into increasing engagement from sponsors, members and the community. Over the past five years they have increased membership by 26 percent, secured significant additional funding and have had numerous outstanding results in surf sports, education and training and retention. 

Central Coast Branch President Stuart Harvey said it was easy leading a Branch like his because it has so many outstanding members.

"Our 15 clubs do an amazing job patrolling and engaging our wider community. They should all be very proud of their efforts over the last season," said Stuart.

The Illawarra Branch secured several of the most coveted awards with Bulli SLSC taking out Surf Sports Team of the Year for their unrivalled Open Men’s Surf Boat Crew and David Winner from Coalcliff winning Patrol Captain of the Year. The prestigious President’s Medal was bestowed upon Anthony Turner from Thirroul SLSC for his outstanding commitment and contribution to so many areas of Surf Life Saving. 

Anthony Turner, recpient of the 2020 SLSNSW President's Medal

The coveted Surf Lifesaver of the Year Award was taken out by Tony Worton from Camden Haven SLSC on the Mid North Coast. To win this prestigious title, lifesavers must have demonstrated sustained contributions to frontline patrol services and the wider Surf Life Saving movement.  

Tony is in many ways, the backbone of the small Mid North Coast club. He is the Director of Lifesaving and Club Captain. Tony is also a member of the club’s emergency callout team and has been involved in some significant rescues. In 2017 he received a Meritorious Award from Surf Life Saving Australia for a daring and brave rescue which saved the life of a young mother. For the past five seasons Tony has achieved the top patrolling hours for his club and branch - volunteering an incredible 700 hours. 

A very enthusiastic Tony Worton said he was blown away with receiving the award. 

"I love it, I love everything about Surf Life Saving. It's my passion.

"We do so much training at our club, to be rescue ready, and we know that in the blink of an eye, anything can happen on the beach and someone could be in serious trouble." 

Tony Worton, 2020 SLSNSW Surf Lifesaver of the Year

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the official involvement of women in Surf Life Saving as active patrol members and so it was fitting that the Volunteer of the Year Award was won by Hunter Branch member Debbie Booth from Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest SLSC.  

Debbie is the epitome of the selfless Surf Life Saving volunteer. She is passionate about education and contributes countless hours to deliver courses to Surf Life Saving members and Community Education programs to tourists visiting the Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest area. This season also saw Debbie mentor all the Branch’s trainers, assessors and facilitators through the introduction of the new online Surf Life Saving Australia Bronze Medallion program. 

The ever-smiling Debbie Booth was typically humble in receiving her award.

"Thanks to my wonderful club, Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest and the whole Hunter Branch. This award is for every one of those volunteers - my friends for life," she said.

Debbie Booth, 2020 SLSNSW Volunteer of the Year

Surf Life Saving NSW President, George Shales OAM said the virtual Awards of Excellence were a resounding success and worked brilliantly to bring all 129 NSW surf clubs together, despite the COVID-19 restrictions, to celebrate the outstanding efforts of members from the 75,000-strong membership. 

“Last season was one of the toughest on record with bushfires along the NSW coast and the impact of the Coronavirus ending the summer patrol season early,” George Shales said. 

“Despite the challenges we faced, our volunteers rose to the occasion – and they continue to do so in support of their communities. Each year our volunteer surf lifesavers put hundreds of thousands of hours into protecting the public on our beaches, but this year our members responded well beyond the beach and into the wider community. 

“We couldn’t be prouder of the way our volunteers displayed courage, bravery and resilience in some of the harshest conditions. They are innovators, leaders, educators, athletes, watermen and women. They have proven themselves to be among the most skilled first responders on the NSW coastline and we are delighted to recognise the best in each field at our annual Awards of Excellence,” Shales concluded. 

2020 Award Recipients 


  • Official of the Year: Debbie Pawsey, Evans Head-Casino SLSC

  • Coach of the Year: Stephen Monaghan, Wauchope-Bonny Hills SLSC 

  • Surf Sports Team of the Year: Bulli SLSC Open Men’s Boat Crew 

  • Youth Athlete of the Year: Noah Steiner, Wanda SLSC 

  • Masters Athlete of the Year: Paul Lemmon, Terrigal SLSC 

  • Athlete of the Year: James Koch, Shelly Beach SLSC 


  • Administrator of the Year: John Eyles, Woolgoolga SLSC 

  • Services Team of the Year: Batemans Bay Bushfire Response Team, Batemans Bay SLSC 

  • Youth Volunteer of the Year: Trae Hare-Boyd, North Steyne SLSC 


  • Innovation Award: Australian Defence Force (ADF) Pilot Bronze Medallion Course, North Bondi SLSC 

  • Community Education Program of the Year: The Gaza Surf Life Saving Project, North Steyne SLSC 

  • Trainer of the Year: Doug Hawkins, Coogee SLSC 

  • Assessor of the Year: Joe Mastrangelo, North Steyne SLSC 

  • Facilitator of the Year: Gail Henderson, Redhead SLSC 


  • Lifeguard of the Year: William Vaughan-Smith, Bega Valley Shire Council 

  • Youth Surf Lifesaver of the Year: Kai Darwin, Umina SLSC 

  • Patrol Captain of the Year: David Winner, Coalcliff SLSC 

  • Patrol of the Year: Patrol 5, Umina SLSC 

  • Rescue of the Year: Bronte SLSC 


  • President's Medal: Anthony Turner, Thirroul SLSC, Illawarra

  • Branch of the Year: Central Coast 

  • Club of the Year: Umina SLSC, Central Coast 

  • Volunteer of the Year: Debbie Booth, Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest SLSC, Hunter 

  • Surf Lifesaver of the Year: Tony Worton, Camden Haven SLSC, Mid North Coast


Sunday 30 August 2020