A lifetime of life saving: Jan Juc SLSC “stalwart” Bec Johnson

May 14, 2020 BY

Bec Johnson with her two children, Tom, 9, and Harry, 12, on Jan Juc SLSC's steps of honour. Photo: MICHAEL CHAMBERS

Rebecca Johnson was 12 years old when she first walked through the doors of Jan Juc Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC).

More than three decades of service later, the businesswoman, mother and volunteer has touched the lives of those who consider the Surf Coast’s beaches to be home.

Upon joining the club as a Nipper, she became the first female of her age group to represent the small township of Jan Juc on the shore and in the water.

“It was quite early on in women’s involvement in surf life saving. I did two years of Nippers, and I won various awards when I was a junior with Life Saving Victoria,” she said.

“I then went on to be selected to do some leadership development scholarships with Surf Life Saving Australia.

“When I was 18 I won the Sir Adrian Curlewis Scholarship which was for leadership involvement and competition in surf life saving for juniors. With that I travelled to New South Wales and Queensland – there was one person selected from each state.

“I’ve been on the committee at Jan Juc for about 20 years. I’ve gone from a role as Junior Club Captain and then progressed to Club Captain, which we now call Life Saving Services Manager.”

In 1999, Rebecca (best known as Bec) won the Victorian Surf Lifesaver of the Year award for her overall contributions to service, competition and surf rescue.

In 2011, she was granted life membership at the very place where her love for water sports was realised.

“It was a huge honour, and it’s probably my most rewarding achievement and what I cherish the most with everything I’ve done in the club,” she said.

Bec’s two sons, Harry, 12, and Tom, 9, were as keen to throw on the red and yellow uniform as their mother was when she first looked out to the water as a child.

“My kids are now involved in Nippers as well, and it’s been really nice to come through the club when it was so small, to have my family involved as well. It’s great in that way.

“Harry will start patrolling next year which is really exciting, so we might be able to patrol together.”

On top of her responsibilities running Surf Coast Podiatry, Bec co-ordinates the patrols roster every summer.

Throughout the cooler months, she organises an emergency call-out crew to be ready in the event of a crisis.

She said what she loves most about being part of Jan Juc SLSC is the enduring friendships she’s formed along the way.

“There’s such a great community involved, from seven-year-old kids starting Nippers right through to 70-year-old people who have been involved in the club for such a long time.

“It’s such a healthy environment for families and kids to be involved, the fresh air, the life skills that you get through being involved with a surf club.

“I’ve got so many lifelong friends that I’ve met from other clubs and around Australia through my involvement in life saving over the years.”

Bec said despite the impressive spike in the club’s membership population, the sense of mateship within the humble building on Clubhouse Road continues to be felt by all.

“Jan Juc itself used to be a very small community, and the club was mainly built up of locals.

“We had two large clubs on either side of us being Torquay and Anglesea, whereas now we’re considered one of those larger clubs.

“We’re highly regarded as one of the really prominent clubs in terms of our life saving skills at Jan Juc.

“We’ve also been asked to operate the Life Saving Victoria jet ski service out of our club which is a huge honour.

“We’re not that small club anymore, we embrace the whole wider Geelong and Melbourne community as well, but we still maintain that family cohesion.

“Everybody knows each other, right from the younger ages group through to our more senior members, which I think is a really nice thing to have.”

According to Jan Juc SLSC documents, throughout her tenure with the club, Bec has run a popular “red faces night” for members, been in charge of first aid at club fundraisers including Bells Bash and the Danger 1000 Ocean Swim, and hosted junior discos.

She’s also been heavily involved in other club fundraisers such as roadside collections and door knocks, all the while patrolling more than 875 recorded hours.

Jan Juc SLSC president Aaron Green described Bec as a “stalwart” who embodied the ethos on which the clubhouse was founded.

“There’s not much she has not participated in or achieved during her time with the club,” he said.

“Moving from athlete, lifesaver, mentor, board member and now parent of young Nippers, she has truly experienced and contributed to all parts of the club environment.

“Members like Bec are integral to the success and sustainability of any club.”