Max Banes chalks up 70 years in surf life saving

Long service: Seventy years a life saver - Port Macquarie's Max Banes says it's all been worth it.

Long service: Seventy years a life saver - Port Macquarie's Max Banes says it's all been worth it.

After 70 years as a surf life saver, you’d think that Port Macquarie’s Max Banes would have had enough.

But talk to the 86 year old long enough and you soon realise the passion and desire that prompted him to achieve his bronze medallion as a 16 year old in Coogee is still very strong.

While he admits to being ‘too bloody old to patrol anymore’, he is still asked to participate in official capacities around the Port Macquarie Surf Club from time to time.

And that’s just fine by him.

“Surf clubs have changed quite dramatically in the time since I first got my bronze medallion,” he said.

“It was different as a surf club member starting out in Coogee. I mean, back then if you were a young bloke and got a little bit out of line, some of the older club members would have given you a kick up the backside.

“Surf club is, or was, big on discipline. But you can’t, obviously, do that kind of thing now.

“Through surf club I’ve made many friends, some of them for life. It is a bit of a cult really.”

From the iconic Coogee Surf Club, Max moved to several clubs before arriving in Port Macquarie and the Flynns Beach club in 1967.

He has held numerous roles within the club, including branch delegate, vice president, senior R and R team member. He has also competed, quite successfully, in masters competitions too.

“I have won a couple of state things, but I couldn’t win an Australian medal,” he says.

“In 1993 I received a clearance to compete with another club at the world surf masters in New Zealand, simply because no one from this club was going.

Gosh, we had some fun over the years. I remember we used to come down in winter for a game of touch football and a swim and then someone would bring out the rum and Bonox.

Max Banes

“Of the 10 events I entered, I came away with seven gold, two silvers and a bronze.

“And if my memory is right, the first masters surf carnival in NSW was hosted by this club too. In the 10 years or so I competed at this level I think I was successful nine out of the 10 years in winning the beach sprint and swim in my age group.”

He has also competed in world masters competition in still water competition.

Typically, when the winter months rolled around, Max says he would gravitate to the Walrus Club.

“Gosh, we had some fun over the years. I remember we used to come down in winter for a game of touch football and a swim and then someone would bring out the rum and Bonox.”

He has also body surfed a 16 foot swell at Sawtell and created a stir in Hawaii by swimming some 150 metres out to a group of surf board riders for a body surf. 

“They told me I was crazy, amongst other things,” he added.

With a lifetime commitment to surf life saving, Max still enjoys coming down to the clubhouse for a swim and a catch-up with a few blokes and a sit in the sunshine.

“I think surf life saving is a great thing. It teaches people to care about others and helps the community,” he said.

“I’ve always liked surfing and surf clubs.

“Oh year, I also spearfished until I was 82 until I realised I was too bloody old to do it anymore.”

The 2017/18 surf life saving patrol season gets underway at a number of local beaches this Saturday.