May 12 - 18, 2024: Issue 625


Alan Moran: IRB Captain At Avalon Beach SLSC - A Few Insights As The 2024 IRB Premiership Commences

Presentation Night's most prestigious award THE NORMAN COOK MOST OUTSTANDING MEMBER OF THE YEAR - 20 years of service, over 1000 hours of recognised patrol service, and an uncountable number of volunteer hours behind the scenes. Whether it's keeping our IRBs in optimal condition, training up our newest drivers and crew, lending a hand with events or technical support at functions, Alan is always willing to lend a hand. One of our best and a very deserving recipient. Congratulations Alan Moran!

IRB Captain at Avalon Beach SLSC Alan Moran has grown up in the valley of Avalon and served the community for decades as a volunteer Patrol member, stating this is what people did and do and it was the usual, attributing his attitude to his mum, who had always done 'a fair amount for the community'.

In 2023 he received a National Medal (15 Years) for Service to surf lifesaving although he has served for longer than that. 

National Medals are a prestigious award, part of the Australian honours system, recognising long and diligent service by members who risk their lives or safety to protect or assist the community in times of emergency. 

Many may not realise that although the volunteer Patrol Season has closed for 2023/2024, the training, work and response to emergencies as volunteers goes on year round. For example, last weekend, May 4 to 5, the first weekend after the Season finished, Avalon Beach SLSC's newest IRB drivers and crew passed their assessment.

Driver: Matthew Lever
Crew: Sharon Oscroft, Hugh Creighton and Hector Quiroga
Trainers: Alan Moran and Richard Cole
Assessors: Terry Barber and Nick Wood

May 4-5, 2024 IRB Assessment at Avalon Beach SLSC

Another annual out of Season happening is the IRB Premiership. The 2024 Sharkskin NSW IRB Premiership Series has commenced, with teams bringing the unique blend of competitive speed and technical, lifesaving precision to Collaroy this weekend for Round 1.

The 2024 IRB Premiership Rounds include:

  • Collaroy SLSC: 10-12 May
  • Fingal Beach SLSC: 25-26 May
  • North Avoca SLSC: 8-9 June
  • Ocean Beach SLSC: 22-23 June
  • IRB Championships – Cape Hawke SLSC: 5-7 July

Local surf clubs taking part are Avalon Beach, Newport, Bungan, Mona Vale and Queenscliff. 

The annual IRB (Inflatable Rescue Boat) competition aims to improve the skills and technique of IRB drivers and crew as well as allow crews to demonstrate their techniques and abilities to perform rescues. Along with Age Divisions, there are five events in IRB competition to hone the skills of IRB Lifesaver Members:

IRB Rescue: teams are comprised of one patient, one driver, and one crew member. The patient is in the water at a designated buoy, the driver and crew member are at the starting line at the on the beach. On the starter's signal, competitors launch the IRB, proceed through the surf to pick up the patient, round the buoy, and return to shore.

IRB Team Rescue: teams are comprised of one patient and two crews (one driver and one crew member per crew). On the starter's signal, the first crew launches the IRB and proceeds through the surf to the patient. As the IRB rounds the buoy, the first crew member jumps overboard. The driver completes the buoy turn and returns to shore alone. The second crew member moves into the water, and takes control of the IRB. The first driver runs up the beach and tags the second driver. The second crew re-launches the IRB, proceeds through the surf to pick up the patient and the first crew member, rounds their buoy, and returns to shore to finish the event.

Mass Rescue: teams are comprised of one driver, one crew member and two patients. Both patients start the event in the water. The crew proceed through the surf, pick up their first patient and return to shore. The driver and the patient must exit the IRB where the patient retires to the beach. The driver proceeds to the start/finish line, rounds a marker and returns to the IRB. The IRB is re-launched and the crew rescues the second patient, returns to the beach and across the finish line.

IRB Rescue - Tube Rescue:  teams are comprised of one patient, one driver, and one crew member. On the starter's signal, competitors launch the IRB, proceed through the surf and turn around their respective turning buoy. The crew member then enters the water and swims past the turning buoy to their patients. The crew member secures the rescue tube around the arms of the patient and tows the patient back to the IRB. Once the crew member and patient are safely aboard, the driver navigates the IRB around the team's turning buoy and returns to shore to finish.

IRB Relay: this event is a continuous relay involving the four events in the following order: Rescue Tube, Mass Rescue, Teams Rescue and Rescue. Each leg is per the description above except for changeovers between legs. 

Avalon Beach is the birthplace of the Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB). In 1969, Life Member, Warren Mitchell worked at Avalon Beach to develop an inflatable craft for rescues in the surf. On Saturday 2 November 2019 Avalon Beach SLSC celebrated the 50th anniversary of the IRB with a special historical display, on-water demonstration of IRB rescue capability and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque. 

Avalon Beach SLSC IRB drivers and crew members were joined by sister clubs Queenscliff and Mona Vale on the beach where it all began - the crews demonstrated racing and life saving skills utilising their IRB's. A J Guesdon photo

Since records started the mighty IRB has saved 108,000 lives. There are currently 1,094 IRBs being operated by 7,292 drivers and crewed by 14,388 crew in Australia. They are used by all 314 surf clubs to carry out rescues each week. 

In recent years their use has been extended to being deployed to weather impacted areas as local surf club members form part of the Emergency Response call out teams. At Avalon Beach SLSC emergency call out team won the 2020 Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches Service Team Award.

The ABSLSC call out team then were: Melinda Akehurst, Terry Barber, Todd Barber, Ashley Cardiff, Peter Carter, Richard Cole, Andrew Crow, Jason Dale, Zachary Dale, Xanthe Friend, Jean Harper, Alan Mahn, Matthew Mayall, Alan Moran, Nicholas Sampson, Chloe Scott, Michael Stanley-Jones, Giles Stoddard and Nathan Wellings.

2020 Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches Service Team Award

On March 19 2022 three people were rescued by Avalon Beach SLSC's IRB crew Todd Barber and Zac Dale after their 35ft power cruiser capsized and sank off Careel Head. 

Avalon Beach SLSC IRB Rescuers: Left Todd Barber Crew Right Zac Dale Driver

They were the first to arrive on the scene after battling through horrendous conditions over 2 kilometres of ocean, and rescued the boat's male captain and a male and female passenger.

Zac Dale and crew Todd Barber later said that at first they could not see the boat through the choppy swell, but then caught sight of a small narrow upturned V about 5 ft high out of the water, which they realised was the bow of the vertical 35 ft boat. 

Three people (2 males, one female) who were wearing lifejackets were in the water, slowly drifting toward the rock shelf over which the waves were breaking about 300 metres from Whale Beach. They were pulled into the Avalon Beach IRB, a full 5 minutes before the others who had responded to the call for help (Whale Beach SLSC IRB, SLSNB Duty Jet ski, the SLSA rescue helicopter and the Police Boat) were able to arrive at the scene and stand by to assist.

The rescued people were transferred from the IRB to the Police Boat for transport into Pittwater, as it was deemed too unsafe for either or both ABSLSC and WBSLSC IRBs to attempt to take them through the surf either to Avalon Beach, or to Whale Beach.

After the rescue, the cruiser sank to the bottom in deep water off Careel Head.

Avalon Beach SLSC’s Jason Dale and Nick Sampson were awarded with Surf Life Saving NSW’s Rescue of the Month for July 2022 while assisting the SES in response to the heightening flood emergency in the Liverpool area. On their way back to a hotel on July 4th after a full day assisting the SES in response to the heightening flood emergency in the Liverpool area, Nick and Jason found themselves caught in flash flooding where, for close to three hours, they switched gears back into lifesaving mode to assist nearly 100 stranded vehicles.

Their rescue support varied from pulling people through car windows and carrying them to self-made evacuation points, to escorting and directing people through the waters. 

Chief among their outstanding efforts was the rescue of an elderly woman who had been swept off her feet into the moving water as well as a policewoman who had jumped in to assist. Jason and Nick were able to rescue them both before they were washed into a nearby creek.

“If we weren’t there, there would have been a significant number of cars that had broken down in the water and consequently a lot more people in vehicles so also a higher chance of somebody being caught in their car,” Jason said.

“I think that would’ve played on my mind a fair bit if that was the outcome, but fortunately we were able to play our part.”

“The people that we got out at the very beginning, by the end their cars were completely submerged,” Nick added.

“Without a doubt there would have been fatalities at some point.”

Lifesavers had been posted to multiple flood emergencies over the past 12 months, with thousands of volunteers turning their backs to the ocean to face the burning issues within their communities.

L to r: Avalon Beach SLSC’s Jason Dale and Nick Sampson. Photo: SLSNSW

The IRB is also used for water safety during events - the annual Pittwater Swim Series is a great example of the local surf clubs working together using these to ensure everything runs smoothly.

IRB safety crews at the 2024 Bilgola Swims

At the 2023 Avalon Beach SLSC AGM Alan Moran became a Life Member.

The citation written by his clubmates provides a few insights:

Alan became a member of Avalon Beach SLSC in 2002 and received his Bronze Medallion in 2003. Alan received his IRB Crew and Driver’s Award in 2003 and has continued to play a vital role in the IRB section of the Club ever since. 

Alan holds 77 lifesaving awards including his Gold Medallion which he received in 2014 and training Officer IRB which he was awarded in 2018. 

Alan has recorded 1249 patrol hours since he started patrolling in the 2003/4 season. In 2015 he patrolled a remarkable 125 hours in the season. Alan not only patrols at Avalon Beach but operates Surf Ski 1, regularly patrolling for Sydney Northern Beaches Branch. Alan was Patrol Captain of Patrol 1 from the 2011/12 season to the 2016/17 season. 

Alan is involved across all aspects of Avalon Beach SLSC. He is a regular on the Sunday Swim and took out first place in the 2007/8, 2009/10, 20011/12 and 2012/13 seasons. 

In 2014 he successfully completed his Gold Medallion proficiency.

He has won the following Club awards: 

2005/6 Outstanding Service 

2010 and 2016 Patrol Member of the Year 

2015 Club Champion (U60) 

2018 The Warren Mitchell IRB Award 

In 2006/7 season Alan became IRB Vice Captain, a position he held until he assumed the IRB Captain role in 2013. At this time he also joined the Board of Management. He has now served as IRB Captain and held a position on the BoM for 10 years. As part of his role as IRB Captain Alan spends countless hours each season maintaining the boats, ordering components, engines and hulls, organising water safety for every aquatic event as well as neighbouring swims and undertaking annual skills maintenance for every driver and crew. He can be seen almost every weekend training new drivers and crew and tinkering with the boats. His role is essential to the core lifesaving capabilities of the Club and he executes his role with thorough and uncompromised level of excellence. Despite a huge workload he quietly goes about his business with good humour and no complaints.

In 2007/8 Alan started competing in the IRB race team. He has continued to represent Avalon Beach to this day. Alan enters the draws for every carnival, organises and transports the equipment, makes sure the gear is ready for scrutineering and prepares the draws so that all the team members are ready for each event. His competition achievements have included the following results:

NSW IRB State Championships Gold 35+ Mass Rescue 2010 & 2011 

NSW IRB State Championships Silver Open Mass Rescue 2010 

NSW IRB State Championships Gold 35+ Teams Rescue 2011 

NSW IRB State Championships Bronze 35+ Teams Rescue 2012 

NSW IRB State Championships Gold 45+ Teams Rescue 2018 

NSW IRB State Championships Silver 45+ Teams Rescue 2022 

NSW IRB State Championships Silver U23 Mass Rescue 2022 

NSW IRB State Premiership Gold 45+ Rescue 2022 

NSW IRB State Premiership Gold 45+ Teams Rescue 2022 

NSW IRB State Premiership Silver 45+ Mass Rescue 2022

Alan has also competed in Surf Boats, in the aptly named crew “The Alans” as well as “Cogs” and the “Norsemen”. 

Alan has not only provided countless hours of lifesaving, he also provides audio visual expertise and technical advice to almost every event held by the Club, including Nipper events, Ocean swims, Carols, Presentation nights and AGM’s. 

Alan officially became an IRB trainer in 2018, but only because he hadn’t completed his paperwork. Unofficially he trained IRB candidates for at least 5 years before that, probably much longer. 

Alan is also a member of the emergency call out team and has responded to numerous out of hours rescues. 

Alan is one of those quiet achievers who contributes to all aspects of the Club and without whom the Club would struggle to operate. He demonstrates great integrity and displays all of the qualities of an outstanding lifesaver.

At Avalon Beach SLSC's 2023 AGM Alan was awarded the Norman Cook for Most Outstanding Member of the Year and also made a Life Member of Avalon Beach SLSC.

20203 ABSLSC Norman Cook for Most Outstanding Member of the Year - pictured here with Avalon Beach SLSC President Bernadette McKay

In the lead into the 2024 IRB Premiership this quiet achiever agreed to share a few insights into his passion for IRB's and looking out for others, even if you do it quietly.

You have grown up in Avalon Beach and surrounds – what has changed most during those decades?

More people and everything that goes with it. When you have more people you have more rules.

What first attracted you to IRB’s?

When I first started Patrolling I looked around and decided if I’m going to do my job properly I need to know how to drive the boat.

You are the IRB Captain at Avalon, the club that introduced the IRB as a piece of equipment to Life Saving in Australia, what skills are involved – what do you need to know how to do and why is it such a good piece of equipment?

In the past you had to swim out with a line or a board. To me it just made sense – why paddle when you can use a motor and be able to lift someone who needs help out of the water and return them to shore quickly where they may be helped. 

As to skills needed, what you need to know, to me, is surf skills. This can be more important than boat driving skills. Driving boat, I can teach that – but with surf skills I can teach you the basics and then you can spend the rest of your life getting good at it. You need to read water – know what the waves are going to do, what the current is doing.

What is the best part about being a Member at Avalon Beach SLSC?

The friends you make, the community that’s there. My mum always did a fair amount for our local community and I just thought that was what you did.

You are part of ABSLSC’s Emergency Call Out Team, which is activated all year around when there is a response needed, including in recent years helping people impacted by flooding in Western Sydney and across the state of New South Wales. Why is important for you to be on call to do that as well?

Once again, when an emergency comes up I think I can go – I could be sitting at home watching TV or reading or something, or I could do this. 

You were made a Life Member of Avalon Beach SLSC in 2023?

Yes; that’s something they surprise you with (laughs).

The 2024 IRB Premiership commenced this weekend, down at Collaroy for Round One, and you commenced as part of the Avalon Beach SLSC Team in 2003. Why is this run during the Autumn and Winter months?

When it started nobody had extra boats and these had to be on the beach during the Patrol Season for use then – you couldn’t have the people who use them away competing. Now most of the clubs would have more boats than they need on the beach but there are still some smaller clubs that are using their Patrol boats during the Premiership. So, it’s important to take that into account.

Avalon Beach SLSC has had some pretty good results over the years – what would you put that down to?

We’ve been lucky that we have a good cohort hat gets involved, they all know the surf and know the boats. 

Will Avalon take part on all the rounds this year?

That’s the plan – we don’t want to let up because we’ve competed since the Premiership started. I think there is only one other club that has co9mpeted since the beginning and we don’t want to let that go.

You have also competed in Surf Boats as well – another boat surf lifesaving equipment  – would you consider yourself a boatie?

For a few years I rowed, but I started that fairly late and it can be hard with older ones in getting a team together sometimes – the past few years we haven’t managed that, but we did in past Seasons.

What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?

All my favourite places are up this end of the peninsula – I mean, once you run out of Pittwater, what is there? I always talk about growing up in the area and how we had Pittwater on one side and the surf on the other – so you could surf, sail and walk across the peninsula. There’s lots here to love, lots to keep you entertained in whatever area you’re interested in.

What is your ‘motto for life’ o a favourite phrase you try to live by?

I always go with ‘just say yes to everything because you are only here once’ – take the opportunity to experience it.

Alan and Avalon Beach SLSC in action at the 2023 IRB Premiership. Photo: Malcolm Trees