A 65-year-old “icon” of the northern Illawarra surf scene has died at Sandon Point, doing what he loved.
Colin ‘Colza’ Hunter got into trouble on the water about 7.15am on May 22, as the prized break filled with board riders.
Early reports suggest he suffered a heart attack.
About six fellow surfers saw him floating face-down and battled big swell to bring him to shore over rocky terrain, before efforts to revive him got underway.
Off-duty lifesavers contributed to those efforts, but Mr Hunter could not be resuscitated.
News of his death spread quickly throughout the surfing fraternity, prompting informal get-togethers at Sandon Point and Bellambi, into the night.
His best friend, Kevin Brown, went to Sandon Point to confirm the sad news before visiting Mr Hunter’s Bellambi home, to tell his elderly mother. Police were already there.
“One of my mates phoned to say, ‘I heard Colza’s dead’. I said ‘nah, I only saw him yesterday’,” Mr Brown said.
“I phoned his house and his mum said he was down at the Point surfing.
“She said, ‘you’d tell me if there’s anything wrong?’ She knew in the tone.”
Mr Hunter worked at a bicycle shop in Corrimal and, for economical reasons, used pedal power as his main source of transportation for much of his life.
He bought himself a car only in recent years, said a friend, Art Montgomery.
“He said he owned himself a little bit of luxury after all those years,” he said.
“He was a very witty character, much loved.
“He never said a bad word about anybody or anything. He just had a good attitude towards life.”
“There’ll be a lot of empty-hearted people over there [at Bellambi] today.”
Mourners have described Mr Hunter as a local legend and a “good bloke who never wanted anything from you”.
They say he was at the beach every day, and became known as the Mayor of Bellambi.
“Colza was a bit of an icon,” fellow surfer Peter Peck said.
“He was always at the beach. Growing up as a kid you’d see him out in the surf. He’s just one of those blokes you always watched.”
Daren Weidner, duty officer of Surf Life Saving Illawarra, praised those who brought Mr Hunter to shore in difficult surf conditions.
“They have done a fantastic job in a pretty traumatic situation,” Mr Weidner said.
A gofundme campaign created to assist with funeral costs raised more than $9000 from 140 people in five days, blitzing the campaign’s $8000 target.
Relatives and friends will farewell Mr Hunter at Parsons Funeral Home in Bulli on Thursday, from midday.
A report will be prepared for the Coroner.