Age no bar to competing at nationals

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/10/2012
Ron Valentine is the oldest competitor at this weekend’s surf lifesaving pool champs
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ FAIRFAX NZ
GETTING HIS KICKS: At 75, Ron Valentine is the oldest competitor at this weekend’s surf lifesaving pool champs.

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A Paekakariki surf lifesaver will compete at the New Zealand pool championships this weekend, 70 years after he began following his father around on the beach.

Ronald Valentine, 75, is entering the 50-metre swim with fins at the first national surf lifesaving event of the season, at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre.

He was bitten by the surf lifesaving bug very early as his father was also a lifeguard.

"My father joined the surf club in Waihi in '42. I was 5 and have been around lifesaving ever since. I used to march around behind him doing what he did."

Mr Valentine joined Paekakariki Surf Life Saving Club at the age of 17 and is now a life member.

He said he liked surf lifesaving because of his love of water and the friends he had made.

"Growing up in a small community, it was something to do.

"We made our own fun. We would do lots of things together, like climbing hills and, when October came, we were at the beach. There's only been one year where we missed out on swimming for one month," he said.

"The only beach I used to hate swimming from was Island Bay. It's the coldest beach I've swum at in New Zealand. That island out there is a fallacy. It's a refrigeration plant in disguise."

Mr Valentine has missed only one beach nationals in 40 years. That was in 2011 and because of the Christchurch earthquake.

He said he loved the surf lifesaving carnivals and competitions. His favourite event was the six-man rescue and resuscitation, which is no longer run. The team would have to rescue and revive a patient who was positioned 250 metres or further out to sea.

"You have the IRBs [inflatable rescue boats] which just head out there and pick them up. It's no doubt the best way, but R and R was a drill team event. It had discipline."

Now Mr Valentine enjoys being a marshal and a judge at events.

He still heads to the pool three times a week.

The national pool surf lifesaving championships have great events for spectators. The line throw (throwing a rope to a patient 12.5 metres from the pool edge and pulling them in): men's and women's events, under-16s to masters, from 8.45am on Sunday.

The super lifesaving (includes swimming with fins, carrying a rescue tube and a rescue off the bottom of the pool): men's and women's, from 7.15pm today.

London Olympian Steven Kent competes in the 100m rescue medley at 3pm on Saturday.

Ronald Valentine, 75, will compete in the 50m swim with fins from noon today.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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