Surfer dies at Greenmount
Tears flow for ‘lovable’ firey after tragic death
BACON and eggs at Greenmount won’t be the same without John Macnamara, as friends plan one of the biggest paddle-outs seen on the Gold Coast to remember the veteran firefighter who devoted thousands of hours and dollars to sick kids.
Hundreds of people are mourning the loss of a man who spent over 40 years as a Gold Coast firefighter after he died on Wednesday in the surf at Greenmount Beach.
His family and friends have been “absolutely broken” as they are left without “the most loveable, honest and happiest guy.”
John Macnamara, 70, known as “Johny Mac”, was a passionate surfer and long-serving officer at the Bilinga-coolangatta Fire Station.
He passed away doing what he loved most – having an early-morning surf at one of his favourite surfing spots with his mates.
He had been surfing at Greenmount beach for decades before the sun would come up with a group of friends called the “Dawn Patrol”.
It is believed he had a heart attack in the water and hit his head on his paddle board, or a submerged rock, just before 5am.
Mr Macnamara was pulled from the surf by one of his friends and attempts to revive him failed.
His wife and one of his daughters were lying on the sand with his body under an umbrella for hours while a hearse waited to take him away.
His friend Lori Pinniger, known as “Curly”, stood close by.
He had spent almost every day with Mr Macnamara for the past 50 years.
“It was the saddest thing I’ve seen in my whole life,” Mr Pinniger said.
“It’s such an incredible loss for his family, and for everyone who knew him.”
The pair met close to 45 years ago when Mr Macnamara moved from Sydney and became a firefighter at the Bilinga-coolangatta fire station in 1973.
Since then, they had been inseparable.
“We became friends straight away as there wasn’t many surfing firefighters back then, so we
❝ It’s such an incredible loss for his family, and for everyone who knew him.
— Lori Pinniger
stuck together,” he said.
“We’ve done everything together since. We have surfed all around the Coast. We did surfing trips overseas.
“We had wives and kids come along around the same time. Once the kids were old enough we went out together and bought cars for them.
“We’ve spent almost every day together for 45 years.”
Mr Macnamara retired a couple of years ago and only just celebrated his 70th birthday.
About 100 of Mr Macnamara’s friends and family gathered on Wednesday and clapped and cheered in tribute to his life as his body was taken away in the hearse.
The “Dawn Patrol” is a group of local surfers who meet at the so-called “knowledge table” at Greenmount every day before hitting the surf.
Once a month, the group would fry up a big breakfast of bacon and eggs, donated from local cafes, and charge $5 for anyone to anyone to enjoy.
Over the past couple of years, Mr Macnamara and his mates have donated over $60,000 to charities Kids With Cancer and Canteen.
Another close friend, Bill Scholer, said Mr Macnamara’s family, including his wife, two children, and 11 grandchildren were “broken” by the news.
“He was the most lovable, honest and happiest guys,” he said.
“He’s had a wonderful life and it’s very sad to see it come to an end.”
It is understood a paddle-out is being planned in the next few days.
“It will be the biggest paddle-out Coolangatta has ever had,” Mr Scholer said.
MUCH LOVED: Police, family and friends gather after the tragic death of John Macnamara at Greenmount Beach on Wednesday.