OLD friends Hugh Cooper and Jack Anderson were reunited again on the water as the Opotiki Surf Lifesaving Club honoured past member, Hugh Cooper, with the launching of a new surf canoe named after him.
This follows the recent naming of the club’s other canoe after another long-time club stalwart, Jack Anderson.
Both men were friends and clubmates in the 1970s and both were instrumental in the club’s revival during that period, after the club had been in recess from 1966 to 1975.
The work reviving the club included the building of the current clubhouse, which was spearheaded by Cooper and his wife, Heather.
The dedication ceremony was held at the surf club on Waiotahe Beach on November 24.
In attendance were Cooper’s wife, sister, his children, as well as other family members, many of whom had travelled from as far away as Auckland and Taupo to be there. Former club members and friends from that period were also there for the naming.
After a welcome by club president Hamish McKenzie, the new surf canoe was blessed by councillor Louis Rapihana.
This was followed by speeches by current club members and members of Cooper’s family, including his daughter, Paula Cooper, who spoke of her parents’ shared dream to re-establish the club.
They believed that its re-establishment would create many opportunities for members of the community to “face their fears and to do things they never thought possible”.
Ms Cooper also spoke of her parents’ hope that the club would serve and protect the community and provide a space for both families and the community to work together for the benefit of the community.
She was delighted to see the club still going strong, and that her parents’ dream had been realised. She also said that the naming of a canoe after her dad was the “perfect tribute” as the canoe had been one of his favoured events. He and his crew at the time won several national titles in both canoe racing and rescues.
The honour of the first paddle in the new canoe, “The Hugh Cooper”, went to Cooper’s children as they challenged the open men’s crew to a race in “The Jack Anderson”.
After the completion of the race, which was declared “too close to call”, other members of the Cooper family tested out the new canoe. The day concluded with a morning tea and the current crop of lifeguards went on patrol, continuing the legacy of Cooper in keeping all visitors to the beach safe.
The Coopers’ contribution to surf lifesaving was not just limited to the Opotiki Surf Lifesaving Club with both Mr and Mrs Cooper being recognised nationally for their contribution. Cooper is also a member of the New Zealand Surf Life Saving Hall of Fame.
The Opotiki Surf Club would like to formally acknowledge the Cooper family for the contribution they have made to the club over the years including the recent purchase of four new canoe paddles for the club.
Thanks also goes to the Lion Foundation, which provided the funds for the new canoe.