There was a time when surf lifesavers stuck to boats and patrols, however, two men believed getting rescue choppers in the sky would change everything.
It has been 50 years since Evan Walton and Ian Badham pioneered the Wales Bank surf rescue helicopter in Sydney, now known as the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
Mr Walton brought the service to Newcastle in 1975, and soon it spread to Tamworth and Lismore.
In it's first year in Newcastle, the surf rescue chopper only spent six weeks in the skies, but Mr Walton knew it was a concept that would go strong and save lives for half-a-century, and more.
"I had a lot of faith," he said.
"A lot of people thought it was ahead of the time ... look where it is now."
Today the service's main duties now are responding to serious accidents and medical emergencies and providing aeromedical support, and urgently transferring patients between hospitals for treatment.
In the 50 years since the service launched, Mr Walton said it was amazing to hear how many people commented that they were comforted by the sound of the helicopter in the air.
"I get a buzz, always," he said.
Mr Walton, a life member of the Merewether Surf Life Saving Club and later the first administrator of Surf Life Saving NSW, went on a training trip to New Zealand in 1971.
In Auckland, he found they were using a bubble-style helicopter with a static rope.
"We had to do a lot of work before the government would accept that we could do these sorts of surf rescues," he said.
The Wales Bank surf rescue helicopter service was launched in Sydney in 1973.
Taking flight in Newcastle
By 1975, Mr Walton had convinced Newcastle surf lifesavers to get on board.
Then, on December 7, 1975, the unbelievable happened.
Newcastle's first rescue helicopter - rented from a private company - was on Merewether Beach for its own launch party.
It was flanked by the Sydney helicopter and the Central Coast helicopter, while the lord mayor, dignitaries and the media gathered to mark the historic occasion.
But just a short distance away, a little boy was climbing the cliffs behind the Merewether baths and had become stuck.
"So our helicopter was actually called out, in the first instance, to do a job," Mr Walton said.
"You can't believe it."
In front of everyone, it had already proven its worth.
"You can rest assured, the community out there are in very, very good hands," Mr Walton said.
That first chopper was a Bell 47, a bubble-shaped machine with a tail and rotor on top.
A far cry from the four high-tech helicopters used by the service today, the stretcher for the patient was attached to the outside of the aircraft.
Mr Walton reflected on a mission for a girl who had come off a horse.
He said he was leaning out the door of the chopper, holding her to keep her calm as she lay face-down on the stretcher.
"She'd lift her head up a little bit and all she could see was waves underneath her so she put her head back down again," he laughed.
"Now and again she would say 'how are we going?' and I'd just say 'good, nearly there'."
The community's helicopter
ALAN Nightingale was trapped in his car in a paddock off the Golden Highway for more than an hour when he was told the chopper was coming for him.
Another vehicle had veered onto his side of the road and hit him head-on near Jerrys Plains on July 31, 2019, causing him multiple serious injuries.
"To know that the helicopter is on its way is very comforting," he said.
Mr Nightingale was extracted when the roof was cut off his car, and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter flew him to John Hunter Hospital.
"It took a matter of moments, rather than a matter of hours," he said.
"It's not a ride that you want to have, but when you need to have it, you know you've got the best."
The teamwork and camaraderie between air crewman, paramedics, pilots and doctors is paramount on the helicopter.
"All of them have hearts of gold ... there's no one more amazing on the planet," Mr Nightingale said.
Despite his ongoing health battles, Mr Nightingale launched the inaugural Muscle in the Brook car and bike show last year.
The community rallied to raise more than $16,600 to support the service.
"We've all been touched by it in some way over those many years it's been in the air, everyone's got a story," Mr Nightingale said.
"To be able to give something back to the helicopter not only for what it did for me, but for everybody up here, it's just such an integral part of the community.
"You feel like the helicopter is a part of who we are.
"We really do feel like we own it, and we do what we can."