THE PAST RESTORED: Local brothers and members of the Ricmond Valley Woodcrafters, Brian (far left) and Laurie (far right) Walsh with the surf reel they restored. Also pictured (back, from left) are Woodcrafters president Ian Thomson, president of the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club Craig Nowlan, surf club life member Jack Trevan and veteran surf club member Richard Crandon.
THE PAST RESTORED: Local brothers and members of the Ricmond Valley Woodcrafters, Brian (far left) and Laurie (far right) Walsh with the surf reel they restored. Also pictured (back, from left) are Woodcrafters president Ian Thomson, president of the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club Craig Nowlan, surf club life member Jack Trevan and veteran surf club member Richard Crandon. Graham Broadhead

Woodcrafters restore surf reel for Ballina lifesaving club

THE restoration of a piece of surf lifesaving equipment brought back memories of "hard yakka" for veteran lifesaver Richard Crandon.

The Richmond Valley Woodcrafters recently handed over a restored surf reel, believed to be more than 60 years old, to the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club.

Surf reels provide the iconic image of lifesavers feeding rope from the reel through their hands, held above their heads, while a swimmer, wearing the "belt" heads out into the surf to help someone in difficulty.

The lifesaver and the rescued were then hauled back to shore using the reel. Richard remembers completing "belt swims" in training.

"I couldn't do one now," he said when the reel was presented back to the club by the woodcrafters who restored it over a period of six months.

Surf club life member, Jack Trevan, said the reel was used for ceremonial march pasts, but was damaged about 30 years ago, and has been in storage for 15 years.

He said the establishment of the surf veterans sub-club last year had rekindled an interest in the history of the club.

Mr Trevan instigated the restoration in a conversation with brothers Laurie and Brian Walsh - who are members of the woodcrafters at Summerland House Farm at Alstonville, and also were lifesavers at Collaroy in Sydney.

"They accepted the job of restoring the reel to its original condition, which involved the complete stripping down of the reel and rebuilding the broken arch support," he said.

"The purpose of the restoration of this reel is to give the current young members some understanding of what was used to save people before jet skis and rubber duckies (inflatable rescue boats)."

Laurie, 91, and Brian, 85, were given the reel, with some buckets of bolts, and set about restoring the piece of local history.

Laurie said the arch was made by constructing a mould, then steaming and bending the wooden piece over it, and clamping it.


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