By Natalee Kerr
Almost five decades ago, local lifeguard Bill Strachan signed up to become a member of the Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club. The now 58-year-old shares his lifesaving journey with Natalee Kerr.
What is your connection to the region?
I’ve been in Ocean Grove since I was 12 – I was raised in Canada and then went to Britain for a bit before coming here.
You’ve been involved in lifesaving for 46 years, can you tell us about your time in the role?
I joined the club when I was 13 and got my qualifying certificate for surf rescue. I became a life member of the club in 2017. We have more than 1000 members at the club now. We’re starting to get third and fourth generation members, it’s great to see.
I’ve also coached ski paddling for 15 to 20 years. I’m still doing patrols here, while working as a lifeguard in Geelong and recreation officer at Kardinia International College. I’m still reasonably fit – I hope to keep being involved for as long as I can.
What do you enjoy the most about being a lifeguard?
At the pool it’s watching the older people get fitter and fitter. You see people that come in and can hardly move, but after five or six months their whole outlook on life as improved – they’re much better mentally and physically. On the beach it’s educating the young ones on how to do things. I like seeing new members improve their surf lifesaving skills. The surf club gives our young people the ability to grow and acquire skills that they can use for their whole life.
What is your advice for beach-goers this summer?
Preventative actions are more important than the rescuing – that’s the major aim of the surf club. Swim between the flags, listen to local surfers, watch and supervise your children. If you do all that most people won’t get into trouble.
How have you seen the community change during the years?
It’s gone from five shops in the main street to whatever number there is now. There was no shopping centre and no entertainment. Nothing was open after midday on a Saturday. It has just gotten busier really – there is too many people and too much traffic. I think the population growth and the lack of patience from people is the biggest change.
How else are you involved with the community?
I’m a member of the Geelong Canoe Club – I spend most of my time there. I’m also a Geelong Football Club member, I love going to the footy. I’ve been following the Cats since we first got here. As long as we’re not doing something, we’ll be there at a home game.