Humans of Aura
Ted Pattison: A champion on the water and on the field
I went to Nundah State School as a kid and then to Churchie. While it was a wonderful school, I went through a stage where I was suffering depression, thinking I wasn’t good at anything – study, sport whatever. When I left Churchie, Dad got me a job in Dalgety’s in the city. I was 17 and they put me in the bloody audit department and gave me a green biro. I hate green biros to this day! There were three blokes there who were all involved in the North Burleigh Surf Club and they asked if I could swim and then told me I should join the club too. So on a Friday around Christmas 1956 I hitchhiked down to North Burleigh, as you did in those days. At the time I had a really short crewcut and as I walked into the club a tall blond bloke looked at me and said ‘what a shocking head!’ And Shocking Head has remained my nickname within surf clubs and other mates for more than 60 years. I’ve never heard anyone else with that nickname but I wear it with pride.
A couple of months after joining North Burleigh I realised my depression had disappeared and I was developing some confidence. I was starting to compete in surf carnivals and as a junior captain I won a couple of branch and state titles in surf lifesaving. My North Burleigh relationship is still there as a member of the Old Boys and my first captain Barry is arriving up here (Maroochydore) to compete in the Australian Masters championships and will stay here in my lovely apartment at The Avenue.
Because I hated those green biros, I decided to become a teacher and trained at the Brisbane Teachers’ College. My first posting was to Virginia State School. I was playing A grade rugby union with the Teachers’ Rugby Union Club and we won the 1960 premiership. I’ve got a photo on the wall of the team and the bloke on the left is Laurie Lawrence – you might have heard of him – he was our halfback and he played for the Wallabies too in 1964. Laurie is probably better known as a swim coach for so many gold medallists and his learn-to-swim campaigns.
Circled Laurie Lawrence (left) and Ted Pattison (right)
A year after we won the premiership, I was playing with Teachers against the Uni side at the Queensland University. I scored three times and got a bit too confident thinking I was pretty good. I came between the centres and stepped off my right foot, heard this noise like a loud whip and I looked down to see my tibia and fibula sticking through my sock. I wasn’t in pain right then but that came later. Laurie Lawrence walked over, looked down at me and said ‘you’ll be right Patto, we’ll put a hinge in that and you’ll be able to sidestep anyone’. Well, he’s still a mate and I see him now and again.
I got a transfer north to the Atherton Tablelands and at one point had 64 kids from grades 1 to 8 in a classroom on my own. You wouldn’t hear of that today! While up there I learned to water ski on Lake Barrine. Normally for 20 year olds learning to ski it’s considered too late to do very well and some people said I’d never be any good but I won a north Queensland ski championship.
When I returned to Brisbane blokes like Jack Birmingham and Wally Morris, who were Australian champions, said I should join the water ski show at the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens, so I did. Over the years I had a wonderful relationship with Keith Williams who owned the Ski Gardens (originally on the banks of the Nerang River at Carrara) before establishing Seaworld (in 1971). At the time I was still teaching but every weekend and the Christmas holidays I would ski and perform at the Ski Gardens. Keith Williams would call me the star of the show but that was going a bit far I thought.
In 1965 I won my first Queensland championship in slalom that was held at the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens and then I won the Australian slalom championship in Perth the same year. I also won Melbourne’s Moomba Trick Championship in 1967. When I was captain of the Australian water ski team I won the world group 3 title in a world record in 1970 in Rotorua, New Zealand. Over the years I won 10 Queensland championships – or probably 17 – I can’t remember now. So I’ve done reasonably well in skiing – something I never thought I would!
While skiing for Keith Williams he came up one day and said ‘I have a VIP up in the box, could you hang into a big jump today?’ and full of confidence I said ‘no problem’. So I hit the ramp about 70mph doing a double cut and stood well off it but then I saw the pool coming up fast at the end of the lake and I thought ‘I’m going to die.’ I hit the water hard and landed just short of the pool but I came back up waving shakingly to the crowd. After the show Keith said come and meet the VIP so I put my tracksuit on and went up. Standing there was a short bloke with a Scottish accent I didn’t recognise. Keith said ‘Ted meet Jim Clark’ and I suddenly realised who he was – the World Formula One champion just after Jack Brabham and Sterling Moss. He was a lovely bloke and Keith asked him what he thought of my jump. Jim Clark – who I wouldn’t even get in the car with because he drove 150mph around a circuit – shook me by the hand and said ‘you’re fookin’ mad’. And that was the best sporting compliment I ever had in my life!
Skiing was the highlight of my sporting life even though I did pretty well at surf club, rugby union and rugby league, won an A grade premiership and coached Queensland Schoolboy sides.
I married my Cecily in 1975 and eventually we had three sons and a daughter. After we married, I continued to be part of the show at Seaworld for a time then I began coaching the Queensland Schoolboys rugby team in 1978 and 1979.
During my rugby league coaching days, I coached and picked a few of the big names. I picked Wally Lewis in his first Queensland team, at the time he was playing with Valleys Juniors. He and his former wife Jackie became good friends of mine. I also spotted Gary Larson, who was a centre in my ’79 Schoolboys team, and Brian Smith, who ended up playing for the Wallabies under Alan Jones, Craig Grauf and a few others who afterwards played for the Broncos and State of Origin. I also picked Ian Healy in his first schoolboys rugby league team and, of course, he went onto cricket and become a wonderful wicketkeeper. I was very proud of being given the chance to coach those guys.
I now have two tin hips after all the jumps from skiing because you land and hit the ramp around 60-70mph. But I had wonderful results from surgery so I go to the gym at The Avenue Maroochydore four or five days a week, can do full squats and in my apartment I have dumb-bells and bar bells. I do laps in the lovely magnesium pool and always feel good when I swim there. I go down to Cotton Tree and walk to Alexandra Headland and back most days and have a surf sometimes. I’ve joined three surf clubs around here.
I moved to The Avenue Maroochydore a week before Christmas 2020. My son Andrew found this place, and we came here with my younger son Matthew and their partners, to meet the sales consultant Karol. We started the tour at the art and craft room and Karol asked ‘do you like art and craft?’ And I said ‘no’ and I saw Andrew and Matthew look at each other. Then we went outside and Karol told me how the residents grow their own vegetables and she asked if I was into gardening and I said ‘no’. But then I saw the pool, gym, the billiards room and wine room, and I thought this place is looking all right. We came into this apartment and I could tell my sons weren’t sure what I was thinking. When we got back to Karol’s office, I said ‘how much is a deposit and when can I pay it?’ I saw my sons and their partners suddenly sigh happily. So now I’m here and I love it. I have no reason to ever leave and hope I’ll be here for another 10 years. We have a lovely ‘happy hour’ every Friday night and I’ve made so many friends. Life is good.
At Aura Holdings we feel very privileged to have so many wonderful residents living in our villages. A very big thank you to Ted (Edmund) Pattison, a resident of our Sunshine Coast community, The Avenue Maroochydore, for sharing the story of his many sporting achievements.