September 14 - 20, 2014: Issue 180

 Gordon Lang

 Gordon Robson Lang 

Four generations of involvement in the Surf Lifesaving movement are what you can't see when Gordon Lang sprints past you on the sand or water, just that brilliant smile or focused eye. If saltwater gets in your blood, then this gentleman is a wonderful example of how well you do once it has. Mr. Lang is definitely a living 'human dynamo' whose range of activities and interests in and for surf lifesaving highlight what having a passion for surf lifesaving may bring, to your self, and to your community. Gordon also reminds you that you're never too old for anything and fitness is not solely the province of those who are young, in fact, some are still in their prime six decades after birth.

This week a small insight into one of Pittwater's finest:

You’re going to France to the Rescue 2014 World Championships for Surf lifesaving – who are you going with?

There’s four from Palm Beach SLSC - and there’s a strong contingent from Avalon, Newport, Mona Vale, Freshwater, Dee Why and Manly that I know of.  There is something like one hundred from the Northern Beaches going.

Who is going from Palm Beach SLSC?

We have Liz Powers for the women, Jamie Creer, Simon Wiadrowski and myself.  We are hoping to emulate our two Golds at the 2012 Worlds (in Adelaide) although realistically, with a smaller group we are not expecting such great results.  The Palm Beach Masters had a great 2013 – 14 season culminating with being the sixth best club at the 2014 NSW Championships with a fairly small team.

The Masters Training – which you are doing year around – why the all year training for this age division?

I used to compete successfully when I was younger and enjoyed it. When I started having children I got tied up doing other things. About six or seven years ago I started getting back into competitions and really enjoyed it but wasn’t doing very well.

I thought if I’m going to do this I may as well give it every effort I can, so I began training again and now try to train  every day. There are a lot of people that we train with at Palmie on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays – this is a really great and wide group of people and it’s really fun doing this. The training is definitely paying off as I won the Palm Beach SLSC “David Fisher” Racing Ski Cup and the Cabbage Tree Cup Board Cup for 2103 – 14.

How many people are in these Masters Training Groups?

The members stem mainly from surf lifesaving clubs at Avalon, Newport, Mona Vale, Narrabeen and Palm Beach – we can get up to 30 people training on Saturdays and Sundays. The groups vary and change each day but it’s a good group.

The Sir Adrian Curlewis Twilight Masters Teams Challenge that you organise runs the first week of January – what was the inspiration behind that?

Sir Adrian Curlewis was a major member of the surf lifesaving movement – Australian President for over 35 years (1934-41, 1945-75). He was also the first captain of Palm Beach SLSC.

Palm beach SLSC was started due to a person drowning in 1920. Adrian Curlewis was on the beach at that time and witnessed this and decided, with others to do something about it. He was one of the founding members of Palm Beach SLSC. 

So there’s a lot of history there.

We wanted to host a carnival which is short (it’s all over in two hours) and has hard competition over all disciplines.  But you know you’re going to have some fun – and there’s a barbeque and a drink afterwards.

Why is it a Masters Carnival though?

You couldn’t do it with Open – Masters want to go there to primarily push and enjoy themselves –  and this will be the fifth year on Friday January  2nd (2015).

Ian Curlewis and Gordon Lang.

You used to be SNB SLS Branch President – how did that come about?

I was President at Palm Beach SLSC and got involved with the Branch. Following my time at the club, the branch president, Tony Haven asked me to come on to the Board at Branch. I was there for six months as Sponsorship and Marketing Director and then he asked me to be Deputy President – I was that position for two months when the President moved over to State President and he asked me to take over as Branch President. A role I did for five years.

What were the responsibilities involved in this role?

It’s was really about making sure that the direction of surf lifesaving goes in the direction we should be going. To me it’s all about the members and the community – making sure the structure is there to support them to get on with what they do. Naturally, we have legal responsibilities as well to ensure we are compliant.

It was about making sure the atmosphere is suitable to encourage people who want to join and that when they do join they learn what they need to fulfill their voluntary obligations – there is also the point that most of the stuff people do inside surf lifesaving creates benefits outside of surf lifesaving, so it is a Life Skill as well.

Primarily my work was to make sure it was easy for people to become part of Surf Lifesaving and once they did, that they enjoyed themselves.

What was the most enjoyable part of Surf Lifesaving for you?

Obviously getting back to competition, culminating in winning an individual Gold at the 2014 Branch Championships (Ski + 3rd with Adriaan Van Der Wallen in Double Ski). From an administration point of view, during my time as President, we purchased our Branch Headquarters at Warriewood – this had been something we’d been talking about for a long while and achieving that was a very good thing.  Membership during this five years increased by 50% - but this was due to the efforts and success  of the 21 clubs – the Branch is there really to support the clubs.  

How long were you President at Palm Beach SLSC?

Just one year – I was also doing other work for the club at that time.  After five years as Branch President I felt it was time to move on and allow new energy, ideas and enthusiasm to come in –– Dave Murray did a great job taking over and further developing the branch support.

I am currently Masters Captain and Carnival Organiser for Palm Beach SLSC – I organise the Adrian Curlewis Twilight and organised the Palm Beach Open for the two years we ran it.  I am also a director of The Cabbage Tree Club – a related club to the Palm Beach SLSC.

On another note, I have been on the organising committee and helped run the 20/Twenty event for the last eight years – a critical fund raiser for Cerebral Palsy.  Also I am involved with organising and running the Soft Sand Shuffle – a major awareness and fundraiser for Youth Mental Health.  The first one was held at the end of last summer at North Steyne and the second one is again at North Steyne this Sunday, today (unfortunately I will not be there to help for this one).

You have been in Surf Lifesaving for over 40 years…

Do you have to put that in?

Yes…. Stop laughing ….

Yes – 45 years  - I turned 60 six weeks ago. 

Where did you join?

At school. Shore (Sydney Church of England Grammar School) has surf lifesaving as a summer sport  - Fi’s (Fiona Rae - another Palm Beach Master)kids are doing it through school as well.  My son did surf life saving at Shore and my daughter did it at PLC. 

My family has been involved with Palm Beach for many many years– my father and his twin brother were Vice Captain and Captain (1944-46 A B Lang was also Chief Instructor during this period) – my father was also Chairman of the Palm Beach Surf Club for quite a few years. I was born in Tamworth and we used to come down to Palm Beach every summer. We moved to Sydney when I was three and Palm Beach was our second home – there was no decision as to whether I was going to join Palm Beach SLSC or not, it was just an automatic thing. I did surf lifesaving at school where I did three years at Long Reef and  Queenscliff and joined Palm Beach when I was going from Year 11 to Year 12 and have been here ever since.  I am also a member of North Steyne SLSC.

I’ve been at different levels of activity and involvement – you tend to get very actively involved when you’re younger. Then when you get married you tend to drift away a bit and then in many cases you come back again when you get older. 

When we came to Sydney we had a house at Lindfield initially, then Warrawee and then we moved to the beaches – my parents had houses at Palm Beach, Newport and Bayview.

When Robyn and I married we lived at Mona Vale and when we had children we wanted to move closer to the schools we wanted our children to attend and so moved up to the North Shore – our daughter has one more year of Uni to go and once she has finished we’ll move back down to the beaches.

Can you remember what you thought or felt when you first saw the beach?

It’s part of my life. It has just always been there. We would have come to Palm Beach the year I was born.

The surf  lifesaving roles you have fulfilled are all voluntary work – what do you do for a career?

I have a digital printing and mailing company in Brookvale. 

You’re Managing Director of Docmaster Pty Ltd - What does that involve?

We do a lot of designing, printing, direct marketing and fulfilment for a wide range of companies from Australia and overseas – we do printing for large retail stores, including interstate. We do a lot of Annual Reports; training marketing and communication collateral. We do a fair bit of work for surf lifesaving as well. And we also have Northern Beaches Printing – which specialises on servicing the local area using our global experience.

Has the Online medium helped you expand your printing business?

It has changed the nature of our business – all the research coming out of the US and Europe these days states that if you want to do Acquisition Direct Marketing, a physical copy does better than electronic. 

So we are experiencing a swing back now to physical copy and direct marketing.

We’re also finding what we call ‘pick and pack fulfilment’, the market is expanding – this is where people go onto a website, they order something and we fulfil it and despatch it. So it’s actually changing our mix a lot but there’s still a lot of opportunity there to expand if you want to do that.

You were the winner of the 2010 Australia Day Pittwater Citizen of the Year in conjunction with Shane Withington – how did that feel?

I was absolutely surprised, it was fantastic. Shane was recognised for all the work he did in saving Currawong as part of the Friends of Currawong group and I saw mine as more an acknowledgement of Surf Lifesaving itself.

You don’t do what we do for recognition, even though it is nice to get that acknowledgement.

When I was totally involved in Surf Lifesaving as President I was doing about 40 hours a week for Surf Lifesaving – I was on two National Boards (I am still a director of the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service), State Council, Branch, and doing a couple of jobs at the surf club. You put the time and energy in because you want to – you enjoy it, but it is always good to get that recognition even if I saw it as also a recognition for Surf Lifesaving. What Surf Lifesaving does for our communities is inestimable – it is the major structure within community on the Northern Beaches by a long way as far as numbers of people are concerned so it’s good to see it get that recognition. 

So how many generations of Surf Lifesaving and Surf Lifesavers are there within your family?

Four. My son Peter is finishing active time at Palm Beach, he was a lifeguard in Pittwater for five years and did six months over in Jersey Island, England lifeguarding. My daughter Emily has been a member of Whale Beach for many years and is just joining Palm Beach this year.

All these roles you have fulfilled are voluntary – President at Branch, at Palm Beach, Masters Captain, running a business – at peak, how many hours were you doing each week?

I used to do up to 40 for surf lifesaving and 60 for the job, although now I do not do as many for surf lifesaving.

Gordon - Flags Training - Palm Beach SLSC Patrol Members - March 2014

Did you get tired?

Well; what is the adage: if you want something done, ask a busy person. No, what I did find is interesting – if I was getting tired at one task at work I’d swing over to Surf Lifesaving and then I’d go back to the other – they seemed to give me energy for each other. If I took time off during the day for Surf Lifesaving I’d match up that time at night or at weekends for the business. So work was still getting their 60 hours a week out of me and Surf Lifesaving was on top of that. But I enjoyed it all and still enjoy putting time and energy into the community with events such as surf livesaving and these other causes and am grateful my family and work allow me to follow my passions.

We were discussing earlier that you feel fitter now than you did 30 years ago?

I wasn’t doing anywhere near the training then that I am doing now. At present I’m at gym  – I start there at a quarter to six for an hour and a half – or swimming three mornings a week.  I train with the Sand Hill Warrior – Rob Rowland-Smith on Friday morning, with the Peninsula Paddlers on Saturday morning and ski training with Peter Grimes on Sunday morning.  I also do Pilates one evening a week.

You also compete in the Big Swim (Palm Beach to Whale Beach) – how many Big Swims have you done?

I would have done about ten when I was younger; I think I did the second or third one – and have done around another ten since coming back – I enjoy these – I may come out hobbling at the other end – my legs always give out just when I get into the wave zone at Whale Beach – don’t know why but they cramp up and I can barely run up the beach.

You looked fine to me.

I was happy with my time this year.

Gordon completed the 2.5 kilometre swim in a time of 56:52 in the 40th Big Swim of 2014.

 Member of Parliament for Pittwater, Rob Stokes, Mayor of Pittwater, Cr. Jacquiline Townsend, Palm Beach SLSC Masters Captain Gordon Lang.

What is the best about being part of Surf Lifesaving for you now?

The camaraderie –  it’s a really good friendly environment. When you go in a competition you fight your hardest to beat the person next to you then afterwards you go and have a chat or drink with them. 

I’ve met a lot of great people – including from the Friday, Saturday, Sunday Training groups and from my time at the Branch. When we go Montpellier, we are staying in the same hotel as the Freshie (Freshwater), Avalon and Newport crews - and we’ll all be together the whole time. 

What are you hoping to achieve in France?

Not much – to do my best and enjoy ourselves.

Why are you going to France then Gordon?

It’s an excuse to get over there. 

No seriously; when you consider that we’re up against a lot of still-water professionals in Europe, and my focus is the ski and board paddling. We train in surf, for those conditions, the reality is that these still-water specialists will have the edge.

If it had been in open water conditions, with waves, I think there would be very different results and the Australians would have more of a chance of doing well. 

We will be on hire skis and boards, equipment we don’t know, as we’re not taking our own equipment over there, so it will be challenging. We’re going over there for a good time, it will be the start of a four week holiday.

And to represent your country?

More our clubs I think – we actually tried to get what we would call a Peninsula Group, because if you combine the four clubs going over there- Mona Vale, Newport, Avalon and Palm Beach, we could have some really good teams in Masters – we said why can’t we compete under a Peninsula Umbrella but they wouldn’t let us. So we have to compete under our own clubs - in our case under the green cap. 

What about a Pittwater umbrella?

We’d like that. 

Fine – we’ll start another revolution in that department too then….

You’ll need to get it done by Tuesday the16th.

What is your favourite place in Pittwater and why?

It has to be Palm Beach – why; because it’s part of my life – it feels like home. My mother-in-law has a house just up here on Pittwater and have been there since before we got married – I’m down here three mornings a week training – we’re down here every weekend during Summer, it’s just a great place.

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

Make the most of your opportunities and enjoy life.

Palm Beach SLSC Masters Team - 2014 Sir Adrian Curlewis Twilight Masters (+ Kate MacDonald - getting BBQ ready!).



In a brave but unsuccessful attempt to save a young woman who had been carried out by the undertow at Palm Beach yesterday afternoon Lieutenant-Colonel Douglas G. Marks, who served with distinction in the war, lost his life. Miss Johanna Mary Rogers, aged 32 years, whom he attempted to rescue, was also drowned.


Miss Rogers, who resided at Catherine-street, Leichhardt, was surfing with several friends, when a strong current carried her out. Lieut.-Colonel Marks was on the beach at the time with another picnic party. He was fully dressed, but without, attempting to divest himself of more than his coat he plunged into the water, carrying out with him a length of rope. After he had swum out some distance this broke, and he also was carried out by the undertow, and was seen to sink.

Later in the afternoon the body of Miss Rogers was recovered, but up till a late hour the body of Colonel Marks had not been found.

Lieutenant-Colonel Marks was 24 years of age, and resided with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Montague Marks, at Lindsay-street, Neutral Bay. During the war he was awarded the Order of the White Eagle of Service. He served with the 13th Battalion, A.I.F., on Gallipoli, where he was present at the original landing, and later he went to France. He was manager of the Continental Paper Bag Company.

BRAVE OFFICER DROWNED. (1920, January 26). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from

Life-Saving In  P.O.W. Camp

A surf life saving class was formed in Changi prisoner of  war camp (Singapore by the president of the New South Wales Surf Life-saving Association Captain Adrian Curlewis  and Lieutenant J Hodge (North Bondi). Captain Curlewis zealously guarded a membership record Last night he addressed the associations annual meeting He suggested that teams of Australian lifesavers should be sent over-seas Captain Curlewis was among those  presented with the association's life  membership badge Others included the hon secretary Mr G Millar the chief superintendent Mr J Cameron and members, of the board of examiners MessrsL Turner and G Webb. Mr Cameron said this should be his last year as chief superintendant a position which he had occupied for 10 years. Last year rescues reported by clubs totalled 2,822 bringing the total since 1914 to 57,320. Life-Saving In P.O.W. Camp. (1945, October 17). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved from

Brats, Brutes and Bruisers Carnival - Palm Beach SLSC - Summer 2013/2014.

Copyright Gordon Lang,  2014.