Bruce ‘Robbo’ Roberton was introduced to lifesaving over 45 years ago and has ‘worn many hats’ in his time as a member of Gunnamatta Surf Life Saving Club. He is currently a Nipper Coordinator and Life Member, and is often spotted around LSV HQ in his role as an Education Team Leader and Instructor.
How long have you been involved in lifesaving and how did you get involved?
I have had two stints at Gunnamatta. 1970 – 1986, and now 2007 –ongoing. I thoroughly enjoy every minute of my time and regret I stepped away for a few seasons. My involvement was encouraged by my then basketball coach (Dr Roger Westh) who was then a member at Gunnamatta and that year was awarded the John Wishart Memorial Medal for a number of dramatic reel and line rescues. IRBs were not around then and would not be for some time.
What are some of your responsibilities at your club?
I have had a number of roles at Gunnamatta: Patrol Vice Captain and Captain, Chief Instructor, Gear Steward, Social Secretary and current Nipper Coordinator.
What do you enjoy most about your position/s?
Each role has its own unique features and all form a vital part in club life for the various members. In my many years on the beach I have overseen many, many rescues. To see the relief on the faces of those that we have brought out of the water, and on the faces of their families on shore is one sight you don’t quickly forget. I recall two rescues in particular. One of a mum who along with her children were caught in a rip. When we got to them the mum said “leave me but save my children”. The other was of a young surfer who was attempting to teach his girlfriend to surf. It was a rescue at the beginning of a Sunday and we were just setting up. They were so far out to sea and so far out of the patrol area we could not see then but were alerted by a member of the public who had seen them go in some time earlier but not come out. When we did find them they were so far out that they commented “we had given up”.
My time as gear steward was quite interesting as I witnessed the transition of all the equipment used in yester year and to todays. Social Secretary was very much behind the scenes and about getting all the families and members together. Now most recently I have seen the progression of Nippers to cadets and then Bronzies. Running a week long Bronze camp has to be one of the most amazing times as you get to witness the growth in confidence and skills of our junior members. It’s much the same with Nippers, except this time it’s the look of amazement on the parents’ faces as they watch these young Nippers start their journey to become lifesavers at one of Australia’s most dangerous beaches.
What is your vision for lifesaving in the future?
We continue to have too many water associated deaths. The Open Water Learning Experience and Sink or Swim programs as delivered by LSV provide such valuable day to day lifesaving skills which are vital in todays’ multicultural and ever growing society. The challenge is to get the word out there and engage with so many more people. It would be such an achievement to have these and other lifesaving programs deemed as a compulsory aspect of every day schooling.
When you’re not lifesaving, what keeps you busy?
My wife Sandy and our two boys Shaun and Alex have been involved in lifesaving. There is always something going on and it seems no sooner does one season finish and the next begins. As my journey in surf lifesaving started around basketball, it continues, as I still play twice a week. Camping, snow skiing and outback touring also have their place.
What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon?
Seeing the sunrise, followed by junior sport and a good movie.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
Many years back a person much wiser than I saw my disappointment with something, of which I don’t remember, and said to me..”It’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you deal with it that matters” …Thanks Dad.