Richard (Dick) Bignold was 15 and, like other boys his age, likely to get into a bit of strife when his father delivered some stern advice: "Get your self down to Cronulla and join the surf club!"
Dick took a train from Sutherland, where he lived, walked into the surf club, and his life changed.
That was in 1958, and he has been a prominent member of surf lifesaving bodies at national, NSW, Sydney branch levels and the Cronulla club since.
Mr Bignold, of Gymea, was awarded an OAM for service to surf lifesaving.
"It's something I love doing, so it's just like another layer of icing on the cake," he said.
Mr Bignold is a life member of each level of the movement and the list of the senior positions he has filled runs to pages.
Mr Bignold said he had found surf lifesaving to be "probably one of the greatest organisations for learning and assisting people to become better citizens".
"It doesn't matter if you are a judge or a labourer, you are all equal," he said.
"No matter where you go around Australia, and 80 per cent of people live on the coast, you can walk into any surf club and be made welcome.
"I have found if you ask someone in a surf club to do it, they will."
Mr Bignold said surf lifesaving had evolved over the years from initially being all male to introducing female members and nippers.
"I believe the introduction of female members has saved surf lifesaving," he said.
"We are getting close to 50 per cent female representation and overall numbers are increasing. People are more mobile these days."