In many ways Ken Walsh lives for the ocean. When he’s not fulfilling his responsibilities as lifeguard supervisor for the Shoalhaven Shire he’s helping out his club Mollymook in any way he can. Now his dedication has been acknowledged with the affable Walsh crowned NSW Lifeguard of the Year.

The Lifeguard of the Year awards recognises and rewards Australian Lifeguard Service employees who have made an outstanding contribution to the delivery and development of lifeguard services throughout the 2014/15 season.

As lifeguard supervisor for the Shoalhaven Shire, Ken has over 150km of coastline under his watchful eye and his strong work ethic and keen interest in mentoring trainee lifeguards mark him as a true leader.

Walsh consistently went above and beyond the call of duty throughout the season as he was involved in a number of after hour rescues.

“Surf Life Saving is a wonderful organisation to be part of whether it is as a volunteer or a professional lifeguard. I am pretty fortunate as I am both,” Walsh said after receiving his award on Saturday.

But his greatest passion is mentoring the next generation of lifeguards. He strong believes that the role of the lifeguard is to be friendly and approachable, and encourages all lifeguards under his supervision to embrace that challenge. Ken works hard with the trainee lifeguard program so that young members get a taste of lifeguarding in a controlled and supportive environment.

“There’s a clearly defined pathway for lifeguards with most of them coming through Nippers and so I am confident that they’re going to be highly skilled,” Walsh said.

“I enjoy being a mentor and seeing them grow into competent lifeguards who do a fantastic job in keeping people safe. I am personally responsible for 45 lifeguards and their safety is as important to me as keeping the public safe, and it is important they are proficient.”

One of Ken’s greatest achievements is the annual lifeguard induction day and proficiency tests where his strong relationship with other emergency services ensured that that the day was productive for everyone who participated.

With so much time devoted to being at the beach it is natural to wonder if Walsh ever feels if he has to make sacrifices to be with his family.

“Not at all yes I spend a lot of time at the beach but it really has become a family affair. My wife is an assessor and facilitator we’re all at the surf club a fair bit, and my children are all involved in lifesaving. It really is an important part of our lives and we enjoy being involved.”

The hundreds of lifeguards that Ken has trained over the years enjoy his company too.

The 2015 SLSNSW Awards of Excellence are proudly presented by Stramit Building Products. Almost 350 of Surf Life Saving’s most outstanding lifesavers, athletes, educators, coaches, and administrators from around the state gathered at Sydney’s iconic Four Seasons Hotel for a night of celebration.

For a full list of all the winners, and to see photographs from the night, please visit the SLSNSW Awards of Excellence Event Page  or our social media channels.