At 88-years-old, Bill Goodwin is New Zealand’s oldest active surf life guard. As the surf club season nears its end, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
He’s still patrolling between the flags at Whitiroa on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Speaking to RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan, Goodwin says he began his surf lifesaving career at the age of 48 because he didn’t want to be in a position where he couldn’t help people struggling in the surf.
He was reasonably fit as he was a hunter, but says it took him the best part of 12 months to get up to scratch.
“Eventually I passed my 400m swim and I was on my way to becoming a lifeguard.”
Shortly after he started he says he and other surf lifesavers pulled 25 people out of the surf in one day.
He has no idea how many lives he’s saved: “it’s been quite a number, I’ve never bothered to count them”.
Goodwin has even founded his own surf club, helping to create the Whiritoa Club on the Coromandel Peninsula in 1973.
He says it’s important to create a club where guards want to spend time.
“The guards really have to feel like that building is their second home.
“Once you get that spirit into them they don’t look back, they just flourish.”
Goodwin, whose sons and grandsons have also been involved in surf lifesaving, relishes the opportunity to train future surf lifesavers.
“It’s a marvellous feeling to meet up with young people and, you know, help train them, and have the odd beer with them when they get older… just a wonderful feeling.”
Goodwin still swims daily, sometimes covering a kilometre in the morning and a kilometre in the evening.
He says it’s important to maintain his fitness, as it can be tough to come back from taking a break.
“If you take a week off, it takes about a fortnight to harden up again.”
But the positive effects are well worth it.
“I had a swim down from the surf club down to Clark Island at Whangamata yesterday and look I felt really, really good.