At 42 years of age and having been involved in Surf Life Saving clubs since he was just 17, Vic O’Keefe admits that the original allure of ‘fun at the beach’ has flowed into a watery way of life for him and his young family.
“People watch Bondi Rescue and think they need to be able to swim to join, but you certainly don’t need to be Ian Thorpe to get your bronze medallion”
“The first surf club that I joined was North Beach SLSC in Christchurch, New Zealand,” Vic tells of his cooler-water beginnings. “I joined because some schoolmates were looking for a fourth person to make up an under 18s surf boat crew: That sounded like fun to me.”
Now with his wife Lee and two young daughters involved in Picnic Bay Surf Life Saving Club, Vic coaches the surf boat crews and has just returned from the Australian Surf Rowers League at Harbour Beach in Mackay where 750 athletes converged as part of the 2014 North Australian Surf Life Saving Championships. Vic’s open women’s (‘Luna Chics’) and masters men’s (‘Crusties’) crews both secured first in their categories: “It’s fantastic to see the development of the athletes as they progress and get results,” tells Vic, who adds there’s something for everyone at the club – from boards, skis and boats to swimming, sprints, surf rescue and more.
“People watch Bondi Rescue and think they need to be able to swim to join, but you certainly don’t need to be Ian Thorpe to get your bronze medallion, or an elite athlete to do any of the other disciplines.”
Joining a Surf Life Saving Club is a great way to improve fitness by training and competing, but it’s also an easy way to give back to the community with all surf sports competitors required to perform 25 hours a year of rostered beach patrols.
“We provide a valuable community service to the public through our beach patrols, which are manned by volunteers who are professionally trained by the club,” says Vic. “We have some absolute gems of people at the club who join up solely for the community service and put their heart into it. Seeing all of the parts of the club working well and knowing that I contribute – even in just a small way – is rewarding.”
Surf Life Saving has also offered an ideal opportunity for Vic to spend time with his young family with his two daughters in Nippers. They join other children aged five to 15 every Saturday afternoon at Strand Park beach to get active and learn valuable water skills.
“Denby is in under nines and Meg is in under sixes,” tells Vic. “My kids really look forward to Nippers each week and it’s been great to see them gain confidence in the water since they’ve been involved. My wife is also a club member and I think that she loves that we are all involved too. It means that she has Saturday afternoons free by herself,” he adds with a laugh.
How to get involved in Surf Life Saving
Head along to Strand Park beach on Wednesday afternoon from 5pm to 6pm or Saturday afternoon at 3pm to watch the Nippers in action. Senior training sessions are Tuesday and Thursday 4.45pm to 6pm and 8am on Sundays. pbslsc.com.au
There is a juniors’ training session on Wednesday between 4.30pm and 6pm at Net One near the Rockpool on The Strand, and another at 2.30pm to 5pm on Saturday. Senior training sessions are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5pm. arcadiansurfclub.com.au