Rodney Stevens, Clarence Valley Independent
When you hit the Clarence Valley beaches this summer you can rest assured you are being watched by the best, after Recce Dobbin was awarded DHL Lifeguard of the Year at the Surf Life Saving Australia National Awards of Excellence.
Born and bred in the Lower Clarence, Reece didn’t follow the traditional path through nippers to become a lifeguard, having earned his Bronze Medallion, he volunteered for several years in his early 20’s.
“I grew up bodyboarding and surfing and I’ve always had such a good relationship with the ocean it was natural to progress to surf lifesaving,” he said.
“I’ve always been into photography, taking surf photos and filming my mates surfing, so to help out in the ocean and keep it safe for the community was a big part of why I got involved in surf lifesaving.”
After gaining experience through volunteering, he took the next steps to get qualified as a paid lifeguard.
“I passed all the fitness tests and all the qualifications that you need to do, and I got into lifeguarding, working here over summer when the beaches are patrolled, six years ago,” Mr Dobbin said.
“I did a whole year full-time stint at Lennox Head and Byron Bay a couple of years ago and for the other five years I’ve been working through the spring, summer and Easter holidays for the Clarence Valley Lifeguard Service.”
Now Mr Dobbin shares his skills with other lifesavers as he mentors the next generation of lifeguards coming through.
Having saved the lives of more than 20 people during his life-saving career, Mr Dobbin said this wasn’t the first award he had received.
“Two years-ago when I was working at Lennox I got the local award there, but I didn’t progress to winning state or national awards,” he said.
“I had two really good bosses, Benny Plunkett and Mitch Imeson who nominated me for this award.
“I got the lifeguard for the year for the Clarence Valley, then they had an awards night for the state a couple of months ago in Sydney, but I couldn’t make it because my partner Michelle was having a baby at the time, and that’s where I won NSW Lifeguard of the Year, which put me in the running for the national award.
Mr Dobbin said when he, Michelle and their daughter went to the national awards night on the Gold Coast on November 5, he knew the competition would be tough and he didn’t expect to win.
“There were other nominated lifeguards from all other states, lifeguards getting other awards, people getting into the hall of fame and just to be there and be a part of it was amazing,” he said.
“It was kind of surreal when my name was announced, it didn’t really hit me until I got back home, and everyone was so pumped and stoked for me to win it.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to win it, I didn’t have a speech prepared, so I had to get up there and roll off a speech out of nothing, which was pretty funny.
“So now I’ve got a trophy for the local award, one for the NSW award and a trophy for the national DHL Lifeguard of the Year for 2022.”
When he isn’t saving lives on Clarence Valley beaches, Mr Dobbin, 31, helps transform the lives of the next generation as a Learning Support Officer at Maclean High School.
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 16 November 2022.