The waves crashing along Maroubra Beach aren’t just familiar background noise to Trevor Cracknell. They are an ever-present reminder of the thousands of rescues he has made across the state’s treacherous coastlines. Let’s take a look back at his journey, driven by an enduring commitment to protecting ocean goers in need.
As a young lifesaver just starting his career on Maroubra Beach, Mr Cracknell often gazed up at the rescue helicopters patrolling the coast overhead. He was fascinated by the crews’ heroic work saving lives along the turbulent shoreline.
One day, after chatting with a friend about his admiration for the service, Mr Cracknell decided to take the next step.
He looked for open positions with Westpac, feeling called to join the crews he had admired from afar.
Mr Cracknell joined the rescue service in 1986 at the age of 27 following a distinguished swimming career where he represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games. The service first launched 50 years ago on the same beach where he honed his lifesaving skills.
Now, 37 years into his rescue career, Mr Cracknell is a senior crewman and diver with no plans of retiring anytime soon. He says it’s been the best job in the world, eager to go to work every single morning over the last four decades.
This is despite the fact that the job has never been easy. Mr Cracknell recalls challenging rescues of fishermen who had fallen from rocks, overturned boats, and fighting the light which presents its own difficulties.
After a childhood spent exploring the coves and beaches of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, he is familiar with the coastline’s hidden dangers – he notes that more fishermen have been injured or killed on the rocky outcrops of this region than anywhere else across Australia.
In 2022, Mr Cracknell and his crew were awarded the Surf Life Saving Australia Rescue Medal for an extremely challenging rescue mission the previous year.
On 5 May 2021, Mr Cracknell, Jon Klopper, and John Molnar responded in the ‘Lifesaver 21’ helicopter to a welfare check request for a young family lost and isolated by rising creek levels at the National Park.
Despite confined spaces complicating the delicate rescue, the crew located the family and directed them to an area where they could be retrieved. Each patient, two adults and an infant, was carefully secured, winched into the aircraft, and transferred to waiting emergency services at a nearby field, reuniting the grateful family safely. Mr Cracknell and his crew received SLSA’s prestigious Rescue Medal for their skilled handling of a complex heli-rescue.
Now in the twilight of his career, he plans to continue serving as long as fitness allows. He remains as passionate as ever, eager to help those in need after over 1,000 rescues. Though missions still present challenges, Mr Cracknell takes it all in stride, driven by a career-long goal of saving lives.