Monday, October 19, 2009

Part 2: The 1967 USA Tour "Down Under" Featuring Spike Beck

(Photo of USA Team "Down Under" in 1967. Photo courtesy of Bob Burnside.)

( Continued from our earlier Blog Post entitled, "The 1967 Australian National Lifesaving Championships", by Bob Burnside, which can be read at: )

(Photo of USA Team "Down Under" in 1967. Photo courtesy of Bob Burnside.)

Part 2: "The 1967 Australian National Lifesaving Championships", by Bob Burnside:

"The final story of interest and of Historical fact was during the National /International Championship finale.
Although the boys were doing quite well in open water ocean swims, they were getting beaten repeatedly in the belt race. The belt race included one swimmer putting on a belt, attached to 300 yards of cotton line...he would then swim to a buoy, with the assistance of three other team members on the beach. They would feed the line out carefully to their swimmer as he raced seaward. The First swimmer to his buoy would raise his hand...declaring his win. I had two outstanding junior swimmers… Spike Beck and Bi Gerold. Rudy had alternated between each...with no success from either of them.

(Photo shows the 1967 USA Belt Race Team with Spike Beck, second from left. Photo courtesy of Bob Burnside.)

A week before the Championships, we were in Queensland.
An old Lifesaver approached me on the beach as we were training for the belt race. He looked at the reel and belt...fingered the line and said, ”Mate, you Yanks have been had! Your line has never been waxed, no wonder you’ve lost every race” He then explained that lines needed to be stretched and waxed so as to better float with ease. Salt water soaking into the cotton line made it sink and become very heavy to swim with. He also informed me, if not stretched...the line would bow in the current while racing. He then made an offer to me saying... “If you’ll trust me with the entire reel, I will have it properly stretched and waxed and have it ready for the Championships for you.” I accepted his kind offer.....and it was ready for us just before the final championship in South Australia.

Rudy and I discussed which of our juniors would race in the Championships...Bi was fast, but I argued, ”Spike is all upper body strength and is a fighter...and he’ll give his all to beat these Aussies”.
Rudy agreed...and we went with Spike Beck in the finals.

As we strained our eyes to see his lane and if his hand would rise first...a roar from our team went up... Spike Beck had won the National Australian Junior Belt Race... Something no foreigner had ever done...and to this day that feat has never been duplicated.

(Photo above shows Spike Beck at far right after his victory in the Belt Race. Photo courtesy of Bob Burnside.)

Below are three photos of Spike's First Place Medal in the Belt Race, courtesy of Bob Burnside:

And below, Spike at left, with Central Section Chief, Micky Gallagher, in August 2008 at Jim "Jake" Jacobson's Retirement Party.


While being hosted by The Victorian State in Melbourne
, we met a wonderful man who spearheaded the states lifesaving movement. His name was George Nutbeam. He was a self-made millionaire, which loved his early lifesaver association and continued to support its movement. With a sense of humor, unequaled by none...They called him the “Silver Fox”...for his shiny white hair and keen insight. George was not fond of the aristocratic National Body, calling them “The Old Farts.”

George loved his Victorian State Lifesavers...and one evening after dinner, Bud Stevenson and I listened to the Silver Fox propose an exchange competition between our “Los Angeles County Lifeguard Association” and his Victorian State All Star Team. He stated, ”If we stay away from each of our National Boards, it is acceptable that separate exchanges can be formulated between individual Lifeguard associations.” Bud and I agreed that this could easily be accomplished. We would set up a Race similar to that which the County of Los Angeles put on annually called “The Taplin Bell"... a relay of four swimmers, four paddlers and finally four dory teams.

Our Taplin Race had been named after a Hermosa Beach Judge “Judge Taplin”, so “The Silver Fox” said, ”Great mates! Let’s call this event between our two Associations “The Weiland Shield”, after the Australian Ambassador to the USA...a close friend of Nutbean. We would drop the dory segment of the race and in its place put the Australian Surf Ski...It was perfect and today “The Weiland Shield” is hotly contested every two years...either here on the California Coast or in Victoria, Australia.

The next year, the first Victorian Team arrived in California and was hosted by us. Since then every other L.A. County all-star team journeys to Victoria, Australia, and they...every other year come to the United States. Today this exchange remains the highlight of competition between the two countries. "The Silver Fox” has since passed on, but he left behind a legacy and an exchange program, for “His beloved lifeguards...both Aussies and Yanks", who will enjoy it for centuries to come. Hopefully, he and I will again tip a “Schooner” of beer together...on yet another beach somewhere beyond...and discuss other exciting projects.

We had had a tremendous tour...and cemented a lasting friendship with our “Down Under Counterparts.” In the years to follow, many tours have been exchanged, to the benefit of all the past, present and future young men and women now part of the International Family of Lifeguards.

“The 1967 American Lifesaving Team”

We had been gone for over two months!
Visiting, Auckland New Zealand, and all the States in Australia: New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania and now were on our way to Hawaii for a short relaxing vacation before returning home to California."

Respectfully submitted,

Bob Burnside

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On behalf of "County Recurrent" and its readership, we would like to express our sincere gratitude and thanks to Bob Burnside for sharing these great lifesaving competition stories and photos with us !

Until next time.....

Will Maguire, Editor
"County Recurrent" News

Service • Training • Commitment

*** Keeping the County Recurrent "in the loop"..... whether he/she likes it or NOT ! ***

County Recurrent is not affiliated with nor sponsored by LACOLA or LACoFD.

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1 comment:

Loyd Pettegrew said...

What a great story! Burnside and Kroon were right in choosing Spike Beck. I competed against Spike from the time I was 13 until I was 22 when Santa Monica finally beat L.A. County in the 1971 Sports, Arts & Recreation Festival Ironman Championship. What a great competitor and what a great waterman!

Loyd Pettegrew
St. Pete Beach, FL