Friday, 8 February 2013

WALLY GIBBINS 1930 - 2004 "He Was the Greatest"

1930 – 2006
Jan 19 1930 - 12 August 2006

The NSW Spearfishing and Freediving Association (USFA) is saddened to report the passing of Life Member and diving legend, Wally Gibbins.

Wally was born at Turramurra, Sydney on the 19th January 1930, finishing his schooling at Crows Nest Technical College in 1944 with a credible 3rd in the combined schools final exam.

His pioneering diving career began in 1947 when his family moved from Greenwich to Middle Head where the clear water enticed him to fashion some diving gear and develop an interest in spearfishing which began in the early summer of late 1947.

He dived alone around Middle Head for some months without meeting any other divers, then when the USFA was formed in April of 1948 soon enrolled as a member and elected to the committee shortly after. He was unbeaten in spearfishing competitions in the ensuing years. One feat worth mentioning was his performance in the first contest between Anglers and Spearmen held in 1952. Wal not only finished well ahead of his team mates but his catch alone surpassed all 37 anglers who had fished from the shore and from boats. Wal had rock-hopped fishing close to the shoreline. Wal was only able to compete for one day at the first national championships held in 1953, where he again top scored but was overtaken by those who fished the next day.

Wal then discontinued club activities and undertook a six month trip to the Great Barrier Reef for the filming of “The King of the Coral Sea” featuring Chips Rafferty and Rod Taylor. The “Lawson Lungs” which he had assisted in designing and building were used extensively during the production of this film. Wal filmed all the underwater footage and doubled as a stuntman for one of the actors.

Three years later he began his professional diving career by salvage diving in Dutch New Guinea (now Indonesia’s West Irian province). Returning to Sydney he began working for Barnes Scuba Service before forming his own company known simply as “The Diving Company”.

At the urging of Ron Taylor and Ben Cropp he returned to spearfishing competitions competing for the first time at the 1961-62 National titles at Currarong where he was runner-up in the pairs, third in the open and headed the winning team on the final day.

He joined the St. George Sea Dragons to soon be elected President, a position he held for several years until resigning to work away from Sydney. He was later to be awarded life membership of St. George.

In following competitions he narrowly missed winning on several occasions to be the Open Runner-up but was often on the winning pairs or teams side representing NSW.

Wal was chosen to represent Australia at the 1965 world spearfishing championships in Tahiti. Unfortunately a shallow water blackout whilst practicing prior to the event ruled him out of the competition. Ron Taylor won this competition and with Peter Kemp came third in the teams. Wal also represented Australia in Noumea on two occasions.

Leaving Australia to work as a diver in salvage operations in the Solomon Islands he soon formed a club of diving enthusiasts, presiding over the club for six years before returning to Australia. At monthly competitions held in the Solomon’s, Wal remained unbeaten.

Upon his return Wal took up residence at Toormina near Coffs Harbour where he joined the local club and was only beaten once in several years of competing. The club switched from spearing to underwater photographic competitions which Wal also won each year.

Joining with Ben Cropp he assisted in the making of a number of TV documentaries based on a trip around Australia, with the last couple, at Wal’s instigation, based on a visit to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

His various diving interests has seen him hiring out as a guide diver to the Barrier Reef, making underwater movies and taping documentaries with the Japanese and also a trip back to the Solomon’s, revisiting the many wrecks he discovered there.

Engrossed in shell collecting Wal displayed an amazing collection and was instrumental in locating the habitats of some of the very rare shells that had not been previously known to science.

Wal’s first shark capture was a Wobbegong Shark caught at Middle Head in 1947 and caught the first Whaler Shark during a club outing in 1950 and his first Grey Nurse Shark in 1952. His largest shark was an 11ft. 2inch Tiger Shark weighing 860lbs which was killed with a powerhead when it swam towards him after being disturbed whilst feeding on a stingray. This was at Sykes Reef in 1963.

In October of 1995 Walter Hammond (sic) Gibbins was awarded life membership of the NSW Branch of the Australian Underwater Federation in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the sport.

Mel Brown.
Secretary NSW SFA

USFA < Click

Walter Hamilton Gibbins 

Jan 17 1930 - 12 August 2006

No wet suit  just an old woolen jumper and some kind of rubber vest, a small  face mask - both symbols of the 1950s - as is the big haul of Eastern green rock lobster, commonly known at the time as 'crays'.

This catch from the 1960s - according to the diver's leg knife.

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