David and Lorraine at the unveiling of The David Renton Patrol Tower. Photo: PADDY KINSEY

Renton’s life between the flags

May 21, 2020 BY

ONE day, about 25 years ago, the surf at Ocean Grove was particularly vicious.

Two and a half metre waves troubled both novice and seasoned swimmers alike, particularly in a rip that was nicknamed “The Mousetrap”.

On that day, David Renton forewent his own safety to rescue 12 people from the surf.

Yet that was just one small chapter in the 54-years of continuous patrol service Mr Renton has completed at Ocean Grove SLSC.

He said the lifesaving methods he has used have evolved over the decades.

“It was very primitive and we only had a reel and line in the early days.

“If we did a rescue back in the early days, we might need to actually carry the surf boat in and row out.

“As we progressed we went to the rescue tube, which is one of the major apparatus that is used nowadays apart from the rubber ducky (Inflatable Rescue Boat, or IRB).”

Ocean Grove was one of the first clubs to begin frequently using IRBs for lifesaving, with some of the club members even having helped develop them.

Mr Renton subsequently has 44 years’ experience driving the IRBs. This makes up just part of the knowledge he passes down to younger lifesavers at the club.

Former Ocean Grove SLSC president Steve Peatling said the knowledge Mr Renton imparted to others was invaluable.

“Dave’s been a fantastic role model for a lot of the younger members of our club. He’s always very generous with his time and with passing on of knowledge with patrols, because there’s no one around, I would think, in the state of Victoria that has as much experience as Dave.”

Mr Peatling said Mr Renton has had an enormous influence on the club.

“His contribution is just immense. He’s a very good person, one of the top notch people you would ever meet.”

Mr Renton’s contributions expand to the broader community too.

He was an integral part of founding the Ocean Grove branch of The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia.

Mr Renton’s wife, Lorraine had a stroke in 2000 that left her with a disabled. Mr Renton was eager for her to still be able to enjoy the beach, and happily took the chance when it came along.

“A gentleman called Jim Bradley came to Ocean Grove and he was involved with the disabled surfing and he was looking for someone who could help set up a disabled surfing (branch) at Ocean Grove.

“Jim had found out that we were going to get a ramp constructed that ran down to the beach so that disabled people could enter the water. So, Lorraine and I were probably test pilots for it all.

“I’ve been vice president there for the last 12 years. I’ve enjoyed doing that and I still do my duties for the disabled surfing as well and get a bit of buzz doing that.”

Mr Renton was also one of a group of people who founded the Bellarine Paddlers in 2015.

But Ocean Grove SLSC are happy to claim him as their own.

Mr Renton is a life member of the club, but incumbent club president Chris Paterson said earlier this year the club decided to go a step further to honour Mr Renton’s contribution.

“A couple of months ago, given his patrol service, we decided we would name the patrol tower after him.

“It was a submission by a long-term member that got unanimously passed at the committee level.”

Inevitably, in the 54 years Mr Renton has served the club there have been some difficult times, but Mr Renton’s dedication to helping others has never wavered.

“I’ve been involved in a few tragic ones with fisherman that have drowned over the years and just different ones, but you always look forward to the good times an don’t look back at the bad times.

“The Ocean Grove Surf Club has basically been my life for the last better than half a century and I can’t think of a better way to have spent my life.”