Tuesday, November 20, 2012

MAX WATT, SURF LIFESAVING LEGEND


MEMORIES OF 'SUPER MAX'





Max Watt of Avalon Beach passed away on July 31st 2012 aged 82. He was a thorough gentleman of the first order and a living legend along the Northern Beaches strip. For many years he was continually fighting  cardiac problems, which in no way appeared to keep him out of the surf. Despite being aware of his heart condition, it came as a huge shock to me when told of his passing. I along with many others assumed he would always be here, after all he appeared to be invincible.

The memorial ceremony held in the Avalon clubhouse was one of the biggest send offs seen at the club for quite a while. Members, former members and many friends and neighbours all attended to say their final goodbyes, as his ashes were taken out the back in the Avalon surfboat and laid to rest in his beloved surf.



Max was a Life member of the Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving club, but that did not prevent him from continuing to do beach and surf patrols as an Active Reserve member. He joined the Avalon club in 1943 and obtained his Bronze Medallion 2 years later.

14 year old Max to the left in picture of his best mate Dougie Crane (On the bike). Avalon 1944.

Max aged 19 and Norma aged 17.  1949.


He had been an active member of the surf club for 69 years and was known by all the youngsters as ''Super Max". There are many more folk who would be able to recall Max's contributions to the club and surf lifesaving movement in much greater detail than this writer, however, throughout the decades I have become aware of what a special individual this great man was and of the debt I and many others owe him.

When I joined the Avalon club back in 1959, Max was regarded as one of the best Surf ski riders in the state, if not the country. During the 1950's he was beaten by a whisker into second place at the Nationals and three years later won the NSW open surf ski championship in 1957 to become the Avalon club's first representative medal winner. God only knows how many gold medals he won competing in the district's Restricted surf carnivals for clubs from Warriewood to North Palm Beach. 

Restricted surf carnival, Avalon Beach. Early 1960's.


NSW Open Surf Ski Champion 1957.
With his brother Jackie a first rate ski rider as well, the Avalon club was always odds on favourite to win the ski races at those Restricted carnivals that were so popular during the 50's and 60's.  We were lucky to have two great athletes, as they undoubtably were. Providing support for the two Watt brothers were Peter Kelly and Wally Byrnes (the Plumber), who at times were unbeatable on their skis. It was the likes of these dedicated watermen that made Avalon such a strong competitive club in the 50's and early 60's.




During my first season in 1959-60, I was only 16 years  old and regarded Max, his brother Jack and others as highly skilled super athletes and as silly as it sounds, when I was asked if I needed a lift into Sydney after QY's on a Sunday arvo by Max, I said yes and regarded it almost as an honour. Several of us would all pile into the back of the old Grace Bros truck and with Max as pilot, it was all ahead Warp Factor One.



We would always without fail, stop at The Spit and gourmandise ourselves completely with huge battered fillets of flathead and bucketloads of chips and potato scallops. Both Max and Jack used to claim the seafood was the best in Sydney. None of us would have argued with that.


When we all resembled pregnant hippos, it was off once again to the city. We would all be dropped off on the corner of George and Park Streets and I would catch the old and long gone Lilyfield Tram home to Nelson St. Annandale. My mother could never understand why I never felt like dinner when I arrived  home.


Corner of Booth and Johnston Sts.

When I took up riding a racing surf ski at the start of season '60-'61, it was Max who was full on with what to do and how to do it. He was an inspiration to me and I am sure I can speak for my good mate at the time Tom Schweitzer, who also would have benefited from Max's advice.

Max's ski on display in clubhouse.

During 1963 when I was living in Avalon and still an apprentice at the Nestle Co. at Abbotsford, I along with two or three other locals would squeeze into the front of Max's truck and he would drop us off at Wynyard around 8 am. Breakfast for me then was a schooner of New and two cinnamon donuts, talk about healthy eating habits.

Many years later during 1991 my son Patrick had obtained his Bronze Medallion and was in the throes of learning the ropes. He was keen to be a good body surfer and one day when Max was entering the water he told Patrick, "Come on son, follow me." I kid you not, 15 minutes later the two of them were mere dots on the horizon and I began to worry that my son and heir may not ever be seen again. Eventually they swam in and joined forces with several others and were able to  return to shore riding the wave of the day.

Max was in his 70's and still doing patrols, which meant having to pass the mandatory annual run and surf swim. When I rejoined the club as an active reserve, Max's brother Jack had to pull me out of the savage shore break, as the years were beginning to slow me down and along with the effects of Carpal Tunnel syndrome in both wrists, I was cactus, but compared to Max I was just a pup. I can recall what seemed like only a few weeks after open heart surgery, he was out the back with several of the old timers, which I hasten to add, included me. The surf was running at around 8 to 10 feet and he could be seen flying down the face of many a wave, using his trusty handboard.

Handboarding. The only way to bodysurf.

I must admit I was more than a trifle concerned a few weeks later, when I noticed Max and what I assumed were his grandkids, slowly floating and swimming up the beach on a flat surf less day, through the middle of millions of small bait fish.  All were wearing facemasks and snorkels and were enjoying themselves no end. With so many tiny fish about, I was wondering if anything bigger may have been interested in a feed.


Whenever the Avalon ocean swim was taking place, Max, when he was not competing, would be on his old plywood wave and fishing ski, paddling around the course in case some competitor required assistance, or even rescuing.


Time eventually caught up with him and he reluctantly was forced to retire from active duty. It still did not stop him from performing many preventative actions when on the beach, or on the rocks fishing. Even then he still enjoyed a decent body surf with his many mates and others. Throughout the years he won many SLSA competitions involving swimming, ski paddling and rowing and sweeping surf boats.

Max demonstrating how not to do it at the Avalon Carnival, January 30th. 1950.


Max also received many SLSA and community awards, for his diverse contributions to life saving and the community itself. He was a recipient of the SLSA's 50 year service award and was named the Pittwater Citizen of the Year. The Manly Daily has an award for the most outstanding service to the community. This award I'm led to believe has only been presented to a total of 100 recipients. One of those was Max Watt who was awarded the Manly Daily Centenary Medal for his efforts, which ensured he would be remembered as being amongst the 100 most influential citizens from the Northern Beaches.
Norma Watt with Prez. Christine and Chief  Instructor Louise.
Jackie Watt.
Julie Watt.
John Watt.   Memories of Dad.                          Memorial Service photos courtesy of  Brian Friend.
Did I mention that Max was partial to the odd wetting of a line? If not, then I can assure you he loved to fish. "No man can have too many fishing reels," he once said. His wife Norma said she was lucky she enjoyed fishing too, otherwise he would not have become interested in her. The Manly Daily reported her as saying, "What other wife would let their husband clean fish in front of the fire during winter?" Two stories about Max, to surface at his memorial came from his son John.


John said he was extremely young at the time and there he was with his dad fishing from the rocks when both of them noticed a much larger than normal swell approaching. Max calmly told his son to pick up the loose gear and walk backwards towards the cliff face. "Now take a firm grip and hang on tight," said Max. The swell broke and became a huge wave that completely enveloped them, almost sweeping them from the rocky platform. No sooner had it receded when Max called out, "Come on, there's at least 5 minutes before the next big one, we can catch a couple of tailor before then." 


When young John was around 13 years old he was taken by his dad out the back during a heavier than normal surf that was thumping in. When out the back Max kept on urging John to swim hard and catch a wave. John said he looked over the top of a few and backed off. Max began scolding him and on some occasions even attempted to push him onto a wave. "What's wrong?"asked Max, "It's too hard," answered John. "Of course it's bloody hard," shouted Max, "If it wasn't hard, everyone would be doing it."

Depending on the tides and the surf conditions, Max would be seen at least 500 metres offshore, fishing on his racing surf ski. He would use an 8 foot length of floorboard as an outrigger to stabilise the craft.This was another tip I learnt from him, when I started fishing from my ski. Sitting between his legs was a wooden fruit case with all his fishing paraphernalia, that doubled as a storage box for the catch.

Quite often he would be seen at the water's edge with pippies and a stinky piece of mullet pulling out metre long beach worms for bait.

He would only ever use a hand line and every now and then he was known to have caught the odd Mulloway. He always would return to shore with a mixed bag and obviously was a very successful fisherman. He was a cunning bugger though and was not too keen to give away trade secrets, such as where the reef was offshore. I lost count how many times I pleaded with him to let me know what bearings to use, so as to position oneself over the exact spot. Eventually it was brother Jack who let the cat out of the bag.

Sunday mornings all the members would be out off the pool at the southern end body surfing. Max would make a habit of joining us all and always kept us entertained. He would never stop handing out advice in his own exclusive way and got a buzz out of taking the piss out of all and sundry, particularly Kegs, bloody hell they were good times with great people.


One of Max's many close friends was his next door neighbour and former club captain Roger Sayers. I feel sure he would have a bucketload of stories to tell about Max and I can categorically state that Roger will miss him heaps, in more ways than one. It seems whenever Roger was too slow at heeding Max's advice to mow his untidy lawn, Max would bite the bullet and mow Roger's lawn himself.

Max and his best mate Doug Crane.

For as long as there is surf rolling in at Avalon, Max will always be with those men, women, boys and girls who volunteer their time to save lives. He leaves behind his loving family, wife Norma, son John, daughters Julie and Margaret,  his younger brother Jack and five grandchildren, but although unseen, he hasn't really left them or us. He's simply out the back with Huey, Brian Daniel Sheehan and his best mate Dougie Crane doing what he has always done and loved, his spirit and deeds live on as an inspiration to us all.


Rest in peace Max, you were indeed a one off special and a true living legend. 




Special note:    The news article on Doug Crane remains the property of the Crane family and   
                          Pittwater News Online.
                          Sadly Doug Crane passed away in December 2011, six months after the interview.


ADVANCE AUSTRALIA WHERE?







When one takes into consideration that a considerable portion of this reproduced letter refers to the fighting men and women who have shed blood for this nation of ours, I thought the Anzac Memorial Ode to be appropriate. 




The World's most beautiful city. Sydney.




































The Don.
Puff.  Reg Gasnier.
Sydney Ferry Race.
Summer at Bondi Beach.



United as one..... Lucky stars.

Aussie beach bum.


Australia Day on Bondi Beach. Floating Flip Flops.

Australia  2012

The last thing I wanted any of my tall tales from antiquity to be was political. I was taught from a very early age that you never discuss Sport, Religion and Politics, as opinions vary from person to person. The photos above represent what Australia means to me and I am positive there could be dozens more that could be included by others whose perception of OZ is totally different to mine. That is what Australia should be about. Diverse in so many ways, but united as one when it comes to love of country and our unique culture.

I was fortunate to be born and raised  during a period when the dreaded political correctness hardly existed and Australia appeared to be heading in the right direction on all fronts. We had political stability, a strong economy, religious freedom, riots and civil unrest were unheard of and migrants were expected to put any feuds and vendettas behind them and familiarise themselves in the ways and traditions of their new and adopted country. Most did just that and went on to literally transform Australia into a nation the whole world looked up to with admiration and envy.

Today it seems our elected leaders don't give a damn about us, or the country they are supposed to be running and looking after on our behalf. Yes, that's right, on our behalf. When concerned citizens are criticized and called racist for talking out against radicals, who are out to destroy our nation and its traditional values, it's time to say out loud, ENOUGH!!! I've taken time to reproduce a letter sent to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition by an extremely disgruntled Mrs. Jenny Bell of South Australia who is concerned, worried and angry at what is currently passing as politics.


Please make time to carefully read the following, as it accurately sums up the feelings of the silent majority............


To Julia Gillard (Prime Minister) and Tony Abbott (Leader of the Opposition).......

You both worry me! (In fact both your political parties worry the hell out of me!!!)

Over the last three years, I find myself becoming more and more fearful of the pair of you and between you, you are turning this country into a place that I no longer feel at home in, or feel a part of! I watch you in Parliament and no, not just the two of you, but every politician that I see, stand up in parliament sneering at each other and acting like children!!! (...and if you were my children, I would be ashamed of you all.... What an example to set)

Although you would like us all to believe that you are putting the needs of this country at the forefront, neither of you are doing that, you seem more interested in "one- up-manship", in scoring off each other and denigrating each other, to the detriment of this country and its people!!!
It seems to be all about you as individuals and not about what you can do for this country! It is fast becoming a place that I do not recognise as the place I always thought was the best place in the world to be!!!

But no longer!!!

You are not listening to the people of this country!!! And here in South Australia, your counterparts are afflicted with the same disease - is it endemic in politicians?

I am watching the deterioration of living standards in this country, (and according to you, on a world stage we are doing better than most countries...REALLY???)....And yet the gap is widening between the "haves and the have- nots." I see our homeless on the streets, our hospitals under-funded and understaffed, out health system is an absolute mess and a disgrace....And yet I see multi-millions of dollars being sent off shore, in aid to other countries, before attending to this countries needs!

I see the "selling off of the farm" in large amounts to foreign interests (In every State) including water rights to foreign interests too....And WHY....?
Especially when you go to great lengths to tell us that water is a finite resource and supposedly we must be careful with how we use it, so we have it for the future?

Foreign interests "Fracking" for coal seam gas and riding rough shod over farmers' rights to their own land AND USING QUESTIONABLE CHEMICALS. (You don't even KNOW what chemicals they use) and possibly causing damage to the water table in the process!!!
And those foreign interests I believe, do not have to pay anything in royalties back to this country, for the first five years of their tenure.....IS THIS CORRECT???

A Carbon Tax, (which you KNOW is just another tax with a "Starting Point dollar value") which will make NO appreciable difference to carbon emissions AT ALL.
A tax, which in spite of all your arguments FOR it, you are doing alone, when other major countries will NOT and DO NOT embrace it, or believe in it.
All that it will do for this country is put working families and small businesses behind the eight ball......what planet are you on if you think your few hundred dollars a year, will make even a scrap of difference to the carbon tax on people? Blind Freddy can see the holes in that argument!!! Do you really think we are that dumb???

The CONVOY OF NO CONFIDENCE was real!!!...and I haven't spoken to even one person who would not have liked to be there if they could, but the tyranny of distance and/or work was the only thing that kept them away. (myself included)....and you KNOW that only a part of the convoy was actually allowed to be in front of Parliament house and ON VIEW....the rest were streets away, unreported by the media!

For Mr Albanese to stand up in Parliament and call it the "CONVOY OF NO CONSEQUENCE" in his sneering tone shows just how out of touch with the people of Australia you really are!!!! WE WOULD  HAVE ALL LIKED TO BE THERE!!!

DEFENCE...... Because Americans are our Allies and we support them in wars,......Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan,.....and you have sent our soldiers to those places and our soldiers fought for you and for Australia.....some coming home with terrible physical injuries and some with devestating Mental injuries as well.....BUT WHERE ARE YOU, WHEN THEY NEED YOU????? 
     
Veterans Indexation to CPI only is a disgrace....and is something YOUR Labor party Julia, used to get the Veteran's vote....BUT YOU LIED (Again)! You never had any intention of honouring your election promise to them....and it will come back to bite you at the next election!!!! (And Tony, Liberals were NO BETTER, Howard had more than 10 years to "fix it" and didn't!)

Veterans are not alone, they have families, friends and supporters, who are heartily sick of the deception your party perpetrated on them....AND THEY ALL VOTE!!!!

They are your obligation, first and foremost.....and it is not your first obligation to give aid to every man and his dog overseas first!!! Look after your own FIRST!!!! Is this what you call SALUTING THEIR SERVICE??

Have you any idea how sickening it is for our Vets to see you both, (Labor or Liberal) turn up to the funerals of our current young Vets for a photo opportunity, to be seen "caring" in the public eye, but only to turn your backs on them all when they need you??? (Just ask Breanna Till, an Afghanistan Soldier's wife, how CARING this government is!!!

And in light of what you don't do for our Vets......Lets talk about Multiculturalism..... People come here from other countries for a better life, for more years than I have been alive (I am 65 years old!).....my own family migrated here in 1883 from Germany and did find a better life....
Pre and Post war immigrants came for a better life and settled in and became wonderful contributors to this country, as did those who came here after the Vietnam War......all have contributed to the rich diversity of this country and some descendents have even fought FOR this country and they have become Australians and were glad to be....and they had no handouts from our Government either.......they worked hard for everything!

I have never before had a problem with all, or any, race of immigrants coming here......
.......However I DO NOW!!!

Please tell me me why we have areas like Lakemba, where police do NOT and will NOT go, for fear of their life?
Please tell me why we can no longer have religion in schools for fear of "OFFENDING" someone? (The latest little gem is that they are not having, or being funded, for "chaplains" any more, but "Counsellors"?)
Please tell me why religious Christmas observances are no longer allowed in some schools for fear of offending someone?
Please tell me HOW Christmas decorations in some stores might OFFEND someone?
Please tell me why we have to have segregated days in some swimming centres, for fear of "OFFENDING" someone?
Please tell me why we have some radical clerics demanding Sharia Law in this country..... when if we were in THEIR country, this would NEVER be allowed?
Please tell me why our laws need to be changed, so as not to OFFEND someone?
Please tell me why are we fast becoming a MINORITY voice in our own country, because of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS?
Please tell me WHY Australians cannot legally wear a face covering bike helmet into a bank... and yet it is OK to wear a Burqa which covers the whole face?
And please tell me WHY, when those people who want asylum here, can wreck our detention centre in Villawood and STILL be accepted here?

SO, in light of the above, WILL BOTH OF YOU......Please tell me WHY, when some of our Vietnam Veterans finally received (in the last 6 months) the regognition that they should have had after the Vietnam War (and which they received from the USA and South Vietnam during and after the Vietnam War), that the families of those Veterans were refused assistance by this Government, to attend that award ceremony and yet this Government....flew, accommodated and even took on bus tours, to the families of asylum seekers, after the funerals of those who were killed in the boat which sunk off Christmas Island? 

What does that say about just who are this government's priorities.?

The Australian people that I speak to have genuine concerns about becoming a second class minority in our own country and the reasons for it are some of the above.....Are you so blind that you cannot see this?

And no, I am NOT racist!!!....(if I did not like Catholics or Protestants, would I be considered racist?) Of course not.

Why is it, that if we object to what is happening in our country.....we are immediately labelled RACIST in an attempt to shut us up?

We are fighting Radical Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, are we not? I hear you say, yes, but the Muslims we have here are "Not like that"........well how would we know?....do we hear ANY of them coming out and speaking AGAINST radicals?? I haven't.....have you???

Islam is not compatible with ANY of the values that we hold here in Australia!.....Are not the experiences of Britain, France and the Netherlands an example of that? Why do you think it would be any different here? We even have an Australian born "radical", whose message is that Australia WILL become a Muslim country, under Sharia Law and we had "better get used to it."

Will both of you grow some "Balls" and start sticking up for this country and its people???

We are the people who put you where you are and PAY you to look after our interests!....And you are not doing that, by any stretch of the imagination!!!

I would appreciate an answer from both of you, if only to convince me that once again, I am not talking to a brick wall!!!!!

In case it has escaped both of you.....I would like to remind you that, in Australia the Government is "FOR THE PEOPLE, OF THE PEOPLE and BY THE PEOPLE"..........never forget that......because you sure have up till now!!!



There's not much more that I could add to the above, other than to state I sincerely believe it needed to be said and possibly a copy should be sent to ALL pollies, especially  to the Greens, who believe they are more important than they really are.

Good on you Jenny, our pollies may be short on guts and intelligence but you've got more than the whole of Canberra and the States combined.....God bless you.   
        



 


       

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