Coogee Beach Surf Life Saving Club’s John Bate: our boy of summer

 John Bate
John Bate

SPEARWOOD resident John Bate often jokes that his passion for surf life saving nearly cost him his marriage.

The Coogee Beach Surf Life Saving Club volunteer is a legend among colleagues, with more than four decades patrolling WA beaches.

But at his busiest, he would rarely have much time for wife Sue because he would be down at the club.

After moving to Australia from the UK, the 72-year-old began his career at Leighton Surf Club (now the Fremantle Surf Lifesaving Club) in the early 1970s.

In the early 2000s he answered a call to help found the Coogee Beach SLSC and has been patrolling 4km of the local coastline ever since.

Recent health issues mean Mr Bate can no longer spend days on the sand, but he will remain a key cog this summer.

Perched at the surf club’s highest point, offering a perfect view of the beach, is Batesy’s Tower, an observation room nicknamed after the popular volunteer.

“This surf club is a part of me. I’ve been doing it for so long,” he said.

“Heading into last summer my son turned around and said ‘Your health will pick up – you’re going back to surf life saving’.

“At the end of the summer he said ‘Dad you’re not going to be very well from now on because surf is finished’.

“And he was dead right.”

Mr Bate’s role now is to scan the beach and radio through key information from the tower to his fellow volunteers on the ground.

It includes keeping an eye on changing sea conditions, threats from marine life, people struggling in the surf, as well as imparting his knowledge on the club’s junior members.

“This may sound funny but this room is me. This is my happy place,” he said.

“It’s just something I love.”

“I want to do it forever.”

Director of life saving Sarah McDonald said the club was grateful to have Mr Bate.

“His experience is imperative and the guidance he offers the juniors is second to none,” she said.