Leading Sunshine Coast aquatic coach dives into retirement after 37 years
  • Tuesday 12 April 2022

Following 37 years of service, the Caloundra Aquatic Centre is preparing to farewell long-term lessee and leading Sunshine Coast aquatic educator John Wallace.

John, who has worked alongside wife Vicki and daughters Kirsty and Olympic swimmer Tessa, said he would leave the Caloundra Aquatic Centre with mixed emotions.

“I’ve been a part of the Caloundra swimming community since 1985. So, it really is an end of an era,” Mr Wallace said.

“My wife and I used to live onsite at the caretaker’s house up until 2002. We had our daughters there.

“When we first started at Caloundra, it was just a 25-metre pool and a toilet block. With council’s support, we grew the facility into what it is today.

“I’m going to really miss it. I’ve lived and breathed swimming for as long as I can remember, but it’s time to stop and smell the roses, travel and explore retirement.”

Having trained under the tutelage of Laurie Lawrence, John Carew and Roy Holland, John developed a reputation of his own for leading swim school programs.

“Laurie’s passion really rubbed off on me,” Mr Wallace said.

“When I started at Caloundra, I quickly rallied the support of local primary schools to start teaching kids to swim as early as possible.

“The schools trialled the service and loved it, so we purpose built an early-years learn-to-swim facility at the centre with council support. It was revolutionary at the time.”

John also went on to coach Olympic and Paralympic swimmers including Kaylee McKeown, Nicole Irving and Jeff Hardy. He even guided his own daughter Tessa to the 2010 and 2018 Commonwealth Games, and the 2012 London Olympics.

His legacy also lives on with daughter Kirsty who now operates the popular aquatic facility at nearby Baringa.

“There have been so many highlights over the years,” he said.

“I really wanted to leave on top, but like many businesses, Covid restrictions have impacted our workforce and our ability to maintain qualified swim coaches.

“I’ve had to wind-back our swim school which is really unfortunate.

“Good staff are hard to come by – you need to lock them up,” Mr Wallace said.

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson congratulated John on his successful operation of the facility and long-lasting contribution to the aquatic community.

“No doubt John’s legacy will continue to be felt for many generations to come,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“We thank John for his incredible dedication to swim coaching, a legacy that will benefit our community for decades to come”.

Mr Wallace’s lease at the Caloundra Aquatic Centre will end on Tuesday, May 31.

“We wish John and his wife Vicki all the best for their future endeavours and we look forward to delivering essential capital works at the Caloundra Aquatic Centre throughout June, ahead of a new lessee starting in July,” Sunshine Coast Council Division 2 Councillor Terry Landsberg said.

The Caloundra Aquatic Centre is one of nine council-run aquatic centres across our region. The other aquatic centres are located at Beerwah, Buderim, Coolum-Peregian, Cotton Tree, Eumundi, Kawana, Nambour, and Palmwoods.

Council will continue to keep the community updated regarding future works.

For more information please visit council's website.