We remember the compassion and generous spirit of former Assistant Professor in Sports Management Denis Callinan, who passed away on January 16, 2008, of a heart attack, at the age of 53.
Generosity Knew No Bounds
``SURF for Life'' -- it was the slogan of the Surfers Against Nuclear Destruction, the peace/environmental/charity group founded by Gold Coast lawyer and former Assistant Professor in Sports Management Denis Callinan in the early 1980s and which became, post-glasnost, the Surfers Against Nature's Destruction.
Surf for Life was also Mr Callinan's personal credo. Known as the surfing solicitor, he lived for the waves. But as his huge funeral service heard in January, he also lived to help others, especially those less fortunate.
Tributes from two former world surfing champions as well as Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Callinan's old Miami High schoolmate, Premier Anna Bligh, were a measure of the enormous love, goodwill and respect he commanded.
His death from a heart attack last week at the age of 53 sent shockwaves through the surfing and legal communities where he was revered for his passion and compassion.
More than 1000 mourners, including surf stars Mark Occhilupo, Joel Parkinson and Dean Morrison, packed Miami High's Great Hall to hear Mr Callinan eulogised as a man with an infectious zest for life and a generous spirit that knew no bounds.
The eldest of three siblings, Denis Terence Callinan was born in Brisbane but settled on the Gold Coast with his family as a child. Adventurous, fun-loving and determined, he was quickly dubbed Denis the Menace, his sister Ann recalled.
In 1968, his father Bill was appointed headmaster at Miami High where Denis attended school with the likes of Bligh and Wayne ``Rabbit'' Bartholomew, who went on to become world surfing champion.
Bill Callinan was a forward-thinking educator and it was probabl y with his son's cajoling that Miami High became the first school in Australia to adopt surfing -- now a multibillion-dollar industry -- as a school sport. Denis also persuaded his father to cut his mate Bartholomew some slack at school to allow him to follow his pro surfing dream.
Mr Callinan's love for the surf did not sidetrack him from studies and he was admitted as a solicitor in 1978.
He worked with various Gold Coast law firms and went on to specialise in family and sports law. He was a partner for 10 years in the firm Moynihan and Callinan at famed surf spot Burleigh Heads, a location which invariably allowed him to get in a wave before work.
``He set his daily schedule not so much by the clock but more so by the swell at Burleigh Point, which he could see from his office window,'' his former law partner, Justin Moynihan, recalled.
But despite often turning up late for meetings with his hair still wet from the surf, Mr Callinan would work into the night to make up the time. Mr Moynihan remembered his former colleague as a tenacious advocate with a compassionate streak that saw the firm take on more than its fair share of pro bono and cut-price work -- not to mention its sponsorship of many charity surfing events.
``That was the calibre of the man,'' Moynihan said.
``He had the knack of getting people to do things.
``He was never afraid to ask.''
Mr Callinan established community legal centres on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. He also set up the innovative Gold Coast Traffic Offenders Program -- a ``shock therapy'' scheme for first-time drink drivers who could receive reduced penalties in return for attending lectures from frontline emergency service workers.
He also lectured in sports law and management at the Gold Coast's Bond University.
In the early 1980s, he set up the Surfers Against Nuclear Destruction (SAND), which held a series of high-profile surfing tournaments to protest against the nuclear arms race.
Top surfers including Occhilupo took part and Mr Callinan persuaded Peter Garrett's band Midnight Oil to play at one event and Garrett later became SAND's patron.
With the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, SAND became the Surfers Against Nature's Destruction, highlighting environmental causes and raising an estimated $1 million for charity through surfing events and functions.
``Denis was the people's champion,'' Mr Bartholomew said yesterday.
``(From an early age) he developed a very strong sense of justice and a very strong sense of doing the right thing. He gave 100 per cent effort and an extra 20 per cent in compassion.''
Mr Callinan was also an ardent traveller and made 29 trips to Hawaii where he ``surfed his brains out'', Bartholomew said.
He was close friends with Hawaiian surfing luminaries including surfboard shaper Dennis Pang and the late big-wave great Mark Foo.
He also travelled extensively in the Pacific, fearlessly surfing remote big-wave spots on his own.
Mr Callinan never married but always charmed the women in his life with flowers and a smile. Following his father's death, he made it a point to take his mother Joyce and Bartholomew's mother Betty to lunch every week.
He is survived by his mother, sister, brother Mark and partner Andrea McKay.
Obituary written by Greg Stolz, The Courier Mail.
Denis Callinan - "The Surfing Saint": www.deniscallinan.com