Surfing chief earns OAM
IT’S AN honour he did not expect to receive.
Max Wells of Inverloch received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition of his contribution to surfing, rescue services and the community.
He joins the ranks of extraordinary Australians honoured in the awards list announced by the Council for the Order of Australia on Australia Day (Sunday), commending service worthy of recognition.
“I was pretty stoked,” Max said in true surfing style.
“For a guy who is not a great surfer, I’ve had a fantastic journey in the sport.”
The CEO of Surfing Victoria also oversees the prestigious Bells Beach Rip Curl Pro at Torquay – surfing’s pinnacle event, or as Max calls it, the “Wimbledon of the sport”.
While the award has humbled him, the honour confirmed his contribution to society.
“You always hope that what you are doing in life will contribute positively to the community and little things like this say that you are in the positive ledger,” he said.
“I’m just an enthusiastic person and I’m willing to commit myself.”
His list of other achievements is just as impressive.
He served as schools surfing coordinator with Surfing Victoria from 1999-2000; developed the Roxy Surf Jam (all-girls instructional surf days) since 2001; and managed the Victorian surfing team from 1994-2001.
Meanwhile, he was a committee member from 1993-1999 and from 1995-2001, managed the Australian junior surfing team.
Working with the Department of Justice, he helped establish the Wingman campaign aimed at preventing alcohol fuelled violence.
He is a member of the Victorian Water Safety Council and from 1999-2009, was a member of the Australian Water Safety Council.
Among his awards are: Eunice Gill Leadership Award, VicSport, 2011; Outstanding Organisational Contribution, Surfing Australia, 2003 and 2005; State Honour Roll, Victorian Secondary Schools Sports Association, 2003; and Service Award, School Sport Australia, 2001.
Since 2001, he has developed the Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program, encouraging indigenous people to experience surfing.
“The special thing about surfing is that there is a place for everyone. It does not matter whether it is the kids having their first lesson at the local surf school or if you’re Kelly Slater or Mick Fanning. Everyone just enjoys being in the ocean and catching waves,” he said.
Max’s community service began as a member of Victorian Nordic Rescue Service from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, joining other emergency services to find people lost among nature.
In the 1980s he became the inaugural captain of the St Gwinear Ski Patrol in the Victorian snowfields and was crowned a life member in 1986.
The roles stemmed from his employment as an outdoor education teacher at the time.
Max’s transition from the mountains to the surf was driven by his work as a teacher at the former Wonthaggi Technical School and later Wonthaggi Secondary College.
Max helped arrange the school’s surfing teams and eventually was put in charge of school surfing across Victoria. He left teaching to work with the Victorian Government’s Play It Safe By The Water campaign and progressed to Surfing Victoria.
Max was nominated by the board and staff of Surfing Victoria, but said the award reflected the teams of people he’s had around him throughout life.
“You can only achieve when you have got good people,” he said.
Max paid tribute to the support given to him by wife Debbie and daughters Sarah and Kate, both of whom surf, as well as second in charge at Surfing Victoria, Elley Harrison and other staff.
Max will receive his award at Government House, Melbourne, in April or May. He splits his time between Inverloch and Torquay.
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