John Minogue - The "Big Water" Guardian

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Profile - Ordinary Kiwis Doing Extraordinary Things

Feb 9, 2021

John Minogue grew up on Auckland’s North Shore, where the waves only picked up during an onshore storm in the Waitematā. For the budding surfer and his mates, conditions at Mangawhai were “like heaven”.

“We got to know one of the lifeguards there and joined the club in 1974. We’d load up the VW on a Friday evening and spend the whole weekend up there at the surf club because they had a dormitory with about 20 bunk beds, hot showers and a kitchen.”

Most members at the time were surfers from Auckland and Minogue says they had “some great times” together at Mangawhai year-round, not just during the patrolling months.

“I was underage, but because I played guitar the publican at the Mangawhai pub would let me in.”

Minogue bought his first guitar – and his first surfboard – when he was 12 and says he hasn’t stopped strumming or surfing since.

“I’ve taught guitar in Gisborne schools and privately since the 80’s and enjoy jamming at Smash Palace, the Poverty Bay Blues Club and at church. All four of my kids play music and write their own songs, they all surf, and the two boys can surf way better than me,” he laughs.

Minogue became a Surf Lifeguard with Mangawhai Heads Volunteer Lifeguard Service in 1974 and was one of the club’s first paid lifeguards. He moved from Auckland to Wainui, near Gisborne, in 1976 and joined the line-up at the Pines in Okitu.

“I got involved in instructing in 1998 and examining in 2010 and I’m now a patrol captain. I teach Beach Education with schools in the Gisborne region each summer…I get a lot of pleasure out of seeing young people come to the beach, catch their first wave on a boogie board, gain knowledge and awareness of the ocean environment.”

But Minogue’s involvement with Surf Lifesaving spans well beyond the shores of Aotearoa.

“Older clubbies might remember the Surf Rescue magazine that SLSNZ used to put out. I would contribute stories about the surf club I helped pioneer in 1995 in West Java, Indonesia. Instructing and developing that club from scratch was my winter job from 1998 until 2005. Since 2005, I’ve been running the SPORA school of water sports development, which partners with Indonesia’s national lifesaving movement, Balawista. This involves training lifeguards, but has recently become more focused on beach education and helping to start up new lifesaving initiatives in other regions of Indonesia.”

Minogue has been involved in a number of rescues, both here in Aotearoa and in Indonesia, but he says many of his most memorable incidents are the ones that ended in tragedy.

“You’re always going over what you could have done better…There are countless successful rescues that I don’t remember, but you never forget the ones where you wish you had been successful.”

Wainui means “big water,” a name which reflects the conditions outside Minogue’s home club. The waves at Wainui beach are legendary, but even lighter conditions can pack a punch.

“The rips are strong and can be dangerous for poor swimmers or beginner surfers. The shore-break can be merciless for little kids, older people and those unused to swimming in the ocean. But I’ve had some of my happiest moments at Wainui and hope people who visit can enjoy it safely too.”


For more information, please contact:

Mackenzie Koppel
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving New Zealand
021 757 433