Barry Cribb was awarded a 75 year citation for service to surf lifesaving pictured in the Yamba Rock Pool.
Barry Cribb was awarded a 75 year citation for service to surf lifesaving pictured in the Yamba Rock Pool.

VALE: Yamba’s iconic surf swimmer passes away

ONE of the last views that surf club stalwart Barrie Cribb saw before his final trip to hospital was a place where he was a familiar site for more than 30 years.

He asked the ambulance driver to take him to Main Beach in Yamba for one last look at the beach and the rock pool he swam in every day.

The driver took him to the beach and opened the back door of the ambulance, and Mr Cribb took a look over the beach and said "Okay, let's go."

Mr Cribb passed away just shy of 92 years old last week in Maclean Hospital, and fellow surf club member, and childhood neighbour Bill Dougherty said he could be described as many things.

"Decisive, firm, determined, thorough, intelligent, intolerant, impatient, fierce competitor, loved a challenge, and a good friend to many, including me," he said in his eulogy.

"Together we enjoyed a thousand surfs, and played hundreds of games of ping pong in the Surf Club. I reckon the score was about 60/40 my way. Ask Cribb-you will get a different result-60/40- his way."

FEATURE: 75 years of surf lifesaving recognised

Mr Cribb served lifesaving for more than 75 years, his service recognised with an award from Surf Life Saving Australia, as well as an Australian Sports Medal.

Born in Grafton in 1928, his family moved to Sydney in 1940, and Mr Cribb started his surf-lifesaving career at the Coogee Surf Club. He filled every possible role including chief instructor, secretary, club captain, and president for six years. He was a club champion, helped coach the march past and became a patron and life member.

If Coogee surf club was his first love, Mr Dougherty said Yamba was a close second for Cribb.

Retiring to Yamba after revisiting the area on summer holidays, Mr Cribb served in many roles for the club including the committee and president, and started the famous Convent to Main Beach swim, and was the handicapper for it and the local Sunday morning swims for many years.

Still, for the past 30 years, his often lone figure would be seen in the beach rock pool, swimming up to a kilometre right up into his 90s.

Barry Cribb stands in the Yamba ocean pool before he swims his daily kilometre.
Barry Cribb stands in the Yamba ocean pool before he swims his daily kilometre.

"He became the icon of the Yamba rock pool," Mr Dougherty said.

"I reckon he swam a million or more laps of that pool, summer and winter. Cribb's lane was known as that lane on the southern side - with newcomers barred."

In their tribute to him, the Coogee Surf Club called him a unique character who had salt water in his veins and surf life saving in his head.

Mr Dougherty farewelled him with a simple statement.

"May you rest in peace, "old man of the sea."

Mr Cribb will be laid to rest in a ceremony at Chatsworth Island today.