Maxine Wallace The Surfing Paramedic from Crescent Head

Maxine Wallace is a dedicated paramedic and grandmother whose passion for surfing – which she discovered on the day she turned 40 – keeps her happy, healthy and young at heart.

Cb: Hi Maxine, tell us about yourself…

I work as a parttime paramedic in Port Macquarie. When I’m not on shift, I stay in a little cottage on the back roads near Crescent Head and spend lots of time surfing. I have two adult children who live on the Central Coast and Sydney, and three grandchildren, who are the loves of my life.

Cb: What motivated you to become a paramedic?

I was a real latecomer and didn’t become a paramedic until I was 50. After being in the fitness industry for 23 years, working as a fitness instructor and managing gyms, I wanted a more secure job. I’d met a few paramedics through the gym and thought their roster sounded appealing, so I began studying, not sure if I’d finish. It was a long process, but I finally completed my studies and was lucky enough to be transferred to Port Macquarie.

Maxine in her paramedic's uniform
Photo by Sharon Lamb of Scheherezade Photography

Cb: What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

It sounds clichéd, but I love helping people. I’m also surrounded by great colleagues who have become like family to me. When you’re driving around with one person for a whole shift, you get to know them pretty well. We’re lucky on the mid-north coast because we have small stations where everyone knows each other. I love that we work as a team and are part of a chain of patient care. And the roster is good – lots of time off for surfing!

Cb: And the challenges?

The hardest part of the job is definitely the physical side which is something most people probably don’t think about. We’re often in situations where we have to lift people or carry them up stairs, which can be really difficult when there’s no time to call for back-up.

It can be frightening when patients don’t realise that we’re there to help them and become combative. Luckily, we have a great relationship with the police, so I feel safe most of the time.

Cb: How do you unwind from work?

My colleagues are great. If something stressful has happened, we always talk about it and ensure the other person is ok. There’s this feeling that someone always has your back.

Surfing is my main form of therapy. The ocean cleanses everything – from work stress, to personal issues. I’ve also got a great group of friends I can have a laugh with.

Cb: When did you fall in love with surfing?

I didn’t start surfing until I turned 40. My ex-husband Pete was a top surfer and I travelled around with him but was too busy with young kids and just never found the time to learn. Back in the 90s, I used to go to the comps and watch these amazing women surf longboards and be in absolute awe of them. Then one day, Pete pushed me into a wave at Noosa and that was it!

I love the feeling of being out in the water, looking around and appreciating everything. Every wave is different, and you only need one good wave to get that natural high. There’s nothing else like it.

Cb: What’s your favourite surfing experience?

My girlfriends and I went on a trip to the Mentawai Islands a few years ago and I got the best waves of my life. We were on a boat for two weeks with perfect waves every day. It was magic. Unfortunately, I also had the worst wipe-out of my life on that trip! The surf was overhead, and I got held down for a long time, trying to find the bottom so I could push off. I was terrified. On its day, Crescent Head Point is pretty hard to beat. It can be difficult to get a wave when it’s crowded but when you do, it’s worth the wait.

Maxine relaxing in her cottage

Cb: What do you love most about life on the north coast?

Crescent Head is a great community. Our shared love of the ocean brings us together. We are so lucky to have plenty of amazing beaches – particularly down the back roads where I live. Point Plomer is still the most beautiful place. I used to bring the kids up to Plomer every summer when they were little, and it’s hardly changed. These days, I take my grandson camping there.

Cb: What are you most grateful for at this point in your life?

My grandchildren. I’m so blessed to have them. There’s nothing like the love you feel for your grandkids and I enjoy such a special relationship with them. My little seven-year-old
grandson comes up to stay with me in the holidays and we go camping, sit around the campfire and surf together. We’re really close.

Cb: Is there a motto you try to live by?

Treat others how you want to be treated. And be happy.

Thank you Maxine