We sat down with Debbie McGuigan, the wife of the world's oldest competitive surfer, the late Barry (Magoo) McGuigan who recently passed after his two-year battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma at 85.
At 56, Barry married Debbie, who he considered the love of his life and the pair took up residence in a beach-side dwelling in Norah Head. It was Debbie who gave Barry the confidence to return to competitive surfing at 58 following his retirement from the fire station after 32 years.
Debbie collaborated with the Central Coast Malibu Boardriders and organised the first Magoo Surf Charity Classic in 1999 as a surprise for Barry’s 70th birthday. The competition has been held every year since at Soldiers Beach, helping to raise more than $300,000 for cancer research and treatment for the Central Coast Cancer Appeal.
1. Where in Australia do you call home?
Norah Head, New South Wales.
2. How did you and Barry meet?
I was working for Sydney Home Nursing, and when Barry’s mother had cancer I would go to their place in Bellevue Hill to help shower her. I didn't meet Barry at first as he was either on nights (working at Bondi Fire Station) or he was down Bondi Beach checking the waves or surfing.
3. What is your connection to surfing and/or the ocean?
As a child, my parents would take us down to Stanwell Park on Sundays, and then as a teenager, we would catch the train to Manly. I love to swim down at Cabbage Tree Harbour, and once I met Barry we would travel up and down the coast for surf competitions.
4. I know surfing took Barry to many places around the world, did you go on many of these surf trips too?
I would go to some places with Barry but not all.
5. What does surfing mean in your life today?
Naturally, it's not as strong since Barry has passed, however, I still have many friends that surf.
6. You have a few Ghost Racks in your home displaying some prized boards. What is so special about these particular boards and do you have a favourite?
We are lucky to have some wonderful old boards Barry and I would collect on our trips up and down the coast. We have one very special board that I bought for Magoo on one of our Wedding Anniversaries and another that I had found going for auction where all proceeds went to Breast Cancer research, I ended up winning the auction, which (now) has almost every Australian Surfer to win a world title from 1964 to 2014 signatures.
7. What do you think Barry would call his biggest achievement? In or out of the water.
I would like to think he'd say the day he married me lol. Barry was a very humble man, he would often say to me "I’m nobody special, I was just someone that picked up a board all those years ago."
8. Words Barry lived by?
“Life is wonderful, Enjoy it“
9. Words you live by?
One day at a time. And of course, Barry's famous "Life is wonderful, Enjoy it" mantra.