April 28 - May 4, 2019: Issue 402


Chris McGuckin

Weekend voluntary patrols began on Saturday 29th September 2018 and conclude today, Sunday, 28th April 2019, at 5pm. 

Over the Easter weekend close to 300 rescues were performed by volunteer surf life saving members, including the rescue of four people caught in a rip at Avalon Beach while their IRB had been sent to the aid of a disabled vessel going onto the rocks at Whale Beach with two people aboard. The rescues underlines the importance of teamwork and of training to respond and physical fitness.

Avalon Beach SLSC member Chris McGuckin won Gold in the Board and the Ironman at the World Surf Life Saving Championships in Adelaide in 2018 and won Gold again at the 2019 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, the 'Aussies - Gold in Board and Gold in Board Rescue with Bob Richardson. In 2009 he won Gold at the World, National, State and Branch Championships in the Board event.

Known as ‘Paddle Pop’ by his three grandchildren, Chris has been on the beach and in the water for all of his life. A keen surfer when younger and still liking a wave, as well as a champion in swimming and on the board in Mid North Coast championships, he left off being a member for a few years while getting married and starting a family and then came back in when his three children went into Nippers.

Since then he has held a variety of roles at the club and has helped foster and train younger members of other clubs in paddling, setting them up with skills for life. A few have been telling Pittwater Online, 'he's a brilliant teacher' for years now.

July 2018: Newport SLSC's Maddie Spencer in for third place Women’s Unlimited Molokai2Oahu - pictured here with our Paddler-on-the-spot, Coach McGuckin. 

Although in his sixties and continuing to win events at all levels, all over the world, his decades in the surf life saving movement have been more about the people he meets, the friendships formed and working as a team to urge each other to greater challenges. The Team in Chris' book is all surf club members everywhere and locally consists of members from Mona Vale to Palm Beach clubs, although there's some from further south who would put in a visit on occasion as part of the Masters Paddling Group he's a part of.

He's a great reminder as the Season closes that the work/fun balance of being fit for the water never ends for some and that the Team is every surf club member from the knee high through to those with several decades in pursuit of Vigilance and Service.

As Chris likes to keep a low profile, many thanks go to Christine Hopton OAM, past President and Life Member of Avalon Beach SLSC for her input in stuff about Chris many of us may not know - this for instance:

July 2013: 1, 2 & 3 in our divisions Maui paddle:  Chris McGuckin, Bob Richardson and Gordon Layard.

Where and when were you born?

I was born in Sydney, in Stanmore in May 1953.

Where did you grow up?

Port Macquarie, a nice country town back in those days. It’s more like a city now.

Were you on the beach there?

Yes I was. I was mainly a surfer. I joined Cadets when I was 13 at Port Macquarie SLSC, Flynns Beach, and did that for around 3 years. I was Mid Coast Champion up there for a few years in swimming and on the board – we used to go away and it was great fun.

When did you move down to Sydney?

When I was 16. I left school and came down to get a job and moved to Avalon Beach straight away, in 1969. I’ve spent virtually my whole time in Avalon. 

Did you join Avalon Beach SLSC then?

No, I was more into surfing. I then got married and had children, doing up houses to make some money. I joined Avalon Beach SLSC in the 1994-1995 Season. All our kids went through Nippers and I then became an Age Manager and it progressed from there, being Competition Manager for Masters. 

You have also helped out training young lifesavers at Mona Vale SLSC?

One of my best mates, Marty Cowper OAM, who was in our club for a number of years, formed a training group at Newport Surf Club and trained the Newport Juniors and we all went along and trained with him. Marty left there and started up Mona Vale and was a very good coach for the Mona Vale kids there for a number of years. When he stepped down from that role last year I took over training the kids there for the last Season and the last six months in particular. So I’m now helping train the younger members and the Masters. We train down there a couple of times a week and they also come up to Avalon to train with us.

At a Lion Island Challenge at least four years ago one of the paddlers who did very well credited her rising performance to your help – so perhaps it’s been a bit longer than six months. What works best when helping these younger members?

It can be a challenge because they like to talk. When you get young girls together all they want to do is chat about what happened at school today and so on. The best way to help get them focused on what they’re there to do is to get them doing so much paddling or other exercises that they haven’t time to talk.

When they turn up all the time to training you know they must be enjoying themselves and getting something from it.

There have been some outstanding results coming out of the Avalon and Mona Vale Masters teams this Season at all levels of competition, including the most recent Aussies – what would you put that down to?

A lot have moved clubs for competition as there’s no point being the sole female Master on a team – you can only really enter the Individual events under your club’s cap and miss out on the Team events. The Team events are the really challenging surf lifesaving events and although it’s good to win or place well in Individual events, when you’re in a Team there’s more togetherness and you’re trying as hard as you can – you stretch yourself. So in order to compete as Teams a number of members have moved club and Mona Vale SLSC, particularly the Female members have brought everyone together into the one hub and are just going crazy. Avalon’s Life Member Christine Hopton has joined Mona Vale, a couple of the great girls from Newport have joined Mona Vale this year and have all come back with medals.

The other part of that is you can’t train by yourself either, you have to train with a group of like-minded people so the same dynamic comes into play. So in our group we have people from Mona Vale, Newport, Palm Beach and Avalon Beach. We train here at Avalon and also at Palm beach or, when the conditions are bad, we train at Clareville and will do a lot of paddling there.

This brings the group together. We’re not all champions but that doesn’t matter as the basis is to have a good time and gain fitness. Everyone turns up every weekend, Winter or Summer, because they love the sport. We also enjoy having a coffee together afterwards, so there’s a social aspect as well and this carries through to great camaraderie when we are all away at State or National Championships.

While on the States and Aussies this Season – you have had a few results?

It’s probably been my best year in terms of results – we had the Adelaide Worlds where I got two Golds and a Bronze and did the same at the Branch and State Championships and the same again at Aussies and virtually in the same events. 

November 2018: Chris McGuckin Gold in the Board and the Ironman at the World Surf Life Saving Championships in Adelaide.

Australian Champions 2019 - Chris McGuckin and Robert Richardson

So you’re 65 now, will turn 66 next month, won medals as a youngster and still are now – how did you maintain that?

I’ve always enjoyed surfing and in surfing you have got to be able to both swim and ride a board and that helps when you do join Surf Life saving and enter board events. You have to be able to read the surf and the conditions and surfing is all about that, in fact, a lot of the guys who paddle with us are all surfers. They understand how the water works and that makes a big difference.

2012 surfing stylings

You’ve been part of Surf Life Saving in one form or another for decades – what has it given to you?

The main thing I’ve got out of it is the friendships formed and being with people from many walks of life, nobody cares what kind of job they have, who all enjoy doing the one thing. Not only that, you can go anywhere – anywhere in the world if you wanted to – to a surf club, and fit in. we’ve made a lot of friends all over the place, which is great.

Is there anything other racing you have done through the club?

IRB Racing for a number of years. The only thing I haven’t done is boat rowing really.

Christine Hopton OAM: There’s also the time factor, you can only do so much. Chris trains swimming squads, spends at least a couple of mornings a week on the board, he does ski now as well, so Sunday mornings he’s on the ski and has won the Ironman a couple of times now – so there’s a lot of disciplines and training.

Avalon Surf Life Saving Club was announced as Club of the Year at the most recent SLSA National Awards and is always doing something whether offering the community free DeFib Training last month or with multiple members being involved in a Mass Rescue on Easter Monday a few days ago - what is the best thing about being a part of this club for you?

Mainly because I live in Avalon Beach and one of my best mates, Rick Mitchell has been in this surf club for a long time. Rick and I used to go surfing all the time together, and we still do. So he helped talk me into joining, along with Roland Luke. I used to catch the bus with Roland into the city. I’ve had opportunities to go to other surf clubs, but why would you?

To Christine Hopton OAM: – The successful Mass Rescue by AVSLSC Members on Easter Monday, what does that indicate to you?

I think it shows that at Avalon Beach SLSC our training is exceptional. The Proficiencies are rigorous here and so everyone on our beach is pretty skilled and they all know their place or the role they perform best. For example, those who know say ‘I’m not a strong paddler, I’m going to do First Aid and make that my role’. As a result a whole team can work like clockwork, everyone knows what they’re to do and how to do it. What can happen when a team doesn’t work in their specific roles is confusion can set in and this shows that people haven’t trained properly in their role or as a team and can create problems. Avalon Beach always seems to be on top of this training and teamwork and that shows on the work done well on the beach and in the water itself.

What’s the main difference between the Avalon Beach SLSC you saw in 1969 and that of 2019, 50 years later?

The main difference would be how run down it was when I first saw it and what has happened since the surf club’s renewal, probably seen best in the clubhouse itself being rebuilt. Surf Clubs can go through cycles, ups and downs, and ours at present is going up and up. You have all the babies doing well, a great youth program, more people joining and our Masters are doing well too. Although we don’t have more Masters joining the Avalon Beach SLSC as members we do have Masters joining in as a group.

The new building has also been the impetus for a lot more community outreach and fostered greater community spirit – we have local groups like OneEighty who can utilise the spaces for positive change as much as a program of classes such as yoga or dancing local people can offer. You can even get a coffee beside the sand here now through the café. I think it’s just going to get better and better.

What do you do when you’re not on a board or paddling?

I’ve been retired for a while now but still enjoy doing some outdoor work – mainly gardening. My own garden is a bit of a passion too.

Christine Hopton OAM: What he’s not telling you is he won a competition for his garden – I remember that from when I first met you. So he’s won medals in the surf and medals in the garden too.

Chris: I take after my mum. Mum had a green thumb and won a Sydney Morning Herald competition a number of years ago. I won a Manly Daily competition when they used to run a Garden Competition.

Haven’t you done some film work too?

Yes, in Blue Water High and a slot in Home and Away.

Christine Hopton OAM: We also did a video for Immigration Water Safety and Chris was in that. This also brings in the connections between what members can help out with from what they do or have done in their careers. Those putting this together knew I’d worked in television and asked ‘can you get us a surfer of a certain age who can do this;…

Chris: and I dived in.

Christine Hopton OAM: and then people gave him a hard time about it (laughs).

Chris: and they keep on replaying it and people are still giving me a hard time about it (smiles). It was all good fun though.

The Volunteer Patrol Season finishes today, Sunday April 28th 2019 – what are you going to do on Monday, go paddling?

Yep. When you think about it we have 12 months, almost to the day, before we’re back in Queensland for the next Australian Championships. Next year is also a big year as we’re going to Italy for the World Championships, the Worlds – a group of us will be going – Chris will be going again too.

Christine Hopton OAM: We went over as a group to the World Surf Life Saving Champs at La Grande Motte in France and local artist Lisa Heath at Penguin Graphics make us up a logo – the paddling kangaroo, so we’ll have to modify that for the 2020 Worlds to an Italian version.

Chris McGuckin Bronze in the Board race and 4th in the ironman at World Surf Life Saving Champs at La Grande Motte in a France, with team mates Gordon Lang (Palm Beach SLSC) and Bob Richardson (Avalon Beach SLSC).

The Masters team trying out the 2014 Team shirt

Chris: So training doesn’t stop really. The only thing that may slow us down is if it gets too cold or the conditions just aren’t safe. We don’t train excessively during the of season but enough to maintain fitness and skill and enjoy ourselves.

Christine Hopton OAM: We will have a little end of season presentation evening here at the clubhouse on the 17th of May for our ‘Mad Masters’ paddlers group. Everyone and their partners come along to see who is presented with the ‘Person with the Most Injuries’ or the ‘Biggest Whinger’ awards, among others -  so that’s always a lot of fun too. One of our members collects funny spoons from the Op Shops so they’re the awards. The main focus is that we have a lot of fun and that’s why we go through Winter – everyone keeps in touch this way, we do our paddling, have a coffee afterwards and are looking forward to the next thing.

What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?

Well besides Avalon Beach, my favourite spot has got to be Pittwater. 

On occasions we all paddle over to the other side, to Mackerel Beach or to Currawong and train over there. We jump off the wharf at Mackerel Beach – that is so much fun. We then paddle back and have coffee. There’s no many places you can actually do that – the water’s beautiful, you see wildlife – you see seals out there, dolphins – the whole thing.

Every year the group goes to Currawong for a weekend. We take our boards and skis and stay over there and that is just such a lovely place. You look back at Palm Beach with the sun coming up in the morning and you could be a million miles away but you haven’t had to travel

That would have to be one of my favourite spots, easily, in Pittwater – all those Western Shores.

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

I’d say – Be Healthy and Enjoy Life. 

That’s why we do what we do (Masters Paddlers group) – we all want to live healthily, to live to an old age if we can, but also be healthy.

Some Of Chris' Results:

2011 Avalon Beach SLSC's Presidents award - Chris McGuckin

Lion Island Challenge In the 8km course club member Chris McGuckin took out the board race.

Avalon Beach SLSClub's first Gold Medallions (Advanced Surf Life Saving Certificates) - Chris McGuckin and Roger Sayers, 1995-96

Australian Championships – 

2004 Bronze - Chris McGuckin, 50 - 54 years Board Race

2007- 2008 Bronze - Chris McGuckin, 50 - 54 years Board Race

2009 Chris McGuckin first National Gold medal in Board event - and in Worlds, State and Branch Championships - Tribute at Avalon Beach SLSC Clubhouse:

2010 Silver - Chris McGuckin, 55 - 59 years Board Race and Bronze - Chris McGuckin, Adriaan Van Der Wallen, Darren Warrener -130 years Board Relay

2011 Gold - Chris McGuckin - Men’s 55-60 years Board Race and Silver - Chris McGuckin, Bob Richardson, Nick Wood - 170 years Board Relay

2012 Silver - Chris McGuckin - Men’s 55 - 60 years Board Race

2013 Australian Championships Masters Team: The World Championships were the highlight of the season held at Christies Beach in South Australia. Congratulations to the our masters women Christine Hopton and Julia Magliano who brought home a Gold medal in the women’s board rescue race. Whilst McGuckin did the road trip fully loaded with everyone’s equipment the rest of the team enjoyed the fine wine, food and sight seeing that South Australia has to offer.



Bronze - 55-59 yrs Mens Board Race - Chris McGuckin


SILVER - 50 plus yrs Male 4km Board - Chris McGuckin 

BRONZE- 50 plus yrs Male Ironman - Chris McGuckin 


GOLD- 54-59 yrs Ironman - Chris McGuckin 

2014-2015 season


Bronze 60 – 64 yrs – Board – Chris McGuckin


Bronze 60 – 64yrs – Iron Man – Chris McGuckin

NSW CHAMPIONSHIPS – UMINA Gold 60 – 64 yrs – Iron Man – Chris McGuckin. Silver 60 – 64 yrs – Board Rescue – Chris McGuckin, Bob Richardson

BRANCH CHAMPIONSHIPS – PALM BEACH Gold 60 – 64 yrs – Board, Ski – Chris McGuckin. Silver 60 – 64 yrs – Iron Man – Chris McGuckin and 170 yrs – Board Relay – Chris McGuckin, Pat Quinlan, Bob Richardson and Bronze 60 – 64 yrs – Tube Rescue – Chris McGuckin

2016: Double Gold to Chris McGuckin NSW Ironman and Board champion

2015 NSW Surf Life Saving Masters Championships - Avalon's Chris McGuckin makes the best of this small wave in the ironman at the State Masters at Umina. He won the 60-64 years event from North Cronulla's Steve Warren. Warren, a legend in board paddling, won that event, with Chris finishing second. Photos taken by Jamie Nilsson /Surf Life Saving NSW

 Avalon Beach SLSC in action at the IRB championships at Mollymook in 2015. Picture by and courtesy Jeniffer McGuckin.

Pittwater estuary Winter Training - photo by Christine Hopton, OAM

 Bob Richardson, Chris Hopton OAM, Chris McGuckin and Gordon Lang - Avalon Beach and Palm Beach SLSC Members for Masters Competition at Rescue 2014 World Life Saving Championships. 

Some of the Masters paddling group having a wind down after a morning session this week - at Avalon Beach SLSC