KEEPING WATCH: Dedicated whale watcher Elaine 'Larnie' Reid, pictured during last year's annual whale census, with Tiffany Lee, from Tyagarah.
KEEPING WATCH: Dedicated whale watcher Elaine 'Larnie' Reid, pictured during last year's annual whale census, with Tiffany Lee, from Tyagarah. Christian Morrow

Surf sister farewelled by beloved whales

ONE of Byron Bay's original surf sisters, Elaine "Larnie” Reid (nee North), passed away earlier this month, leaving behind family, friends and the whales she counted each winter.

Husband Allan "Algy” Reid said friends at the lighthouse on the day of Larnie's passing saw a whale mother and her calf swim in very close to the headland right under where she liked to sit, as if farewelling the devoted water woman.

"Her lifelong love of surfing and the sea developed into a love for the whales and the creatures in the ocean, especially the whales that migrated past the lighthouse every year,” Algy said.

"Every year she went to the lighthouse for the whale census and she had data stretching back to 2003.”

Born Elaine Dorothy North in 1947 at Bangalow Hospital, Larnie attended Byron Bay Public School and later caught the steam train to Mullumbimby High School.

Her father was a well-known local entrepreneur and businessman in the electrical retail business.

"Her father was the first person in Byron Bay to sell chocolate-coated ice blocks,” Algy said.

"He owned one of the first televisions in Byron Bay, which was installed in the front window of the family's shop, which was in Massinger St at that stage.

"People used to come and sit on the front lawn just to watch the test pattern.”

Algy, originally from Brisbane, said Larnie was a quintessential Byron Bay girl.

The couple met in 1961 at Apex Park on Main Beach, when he was down here on a surfing trip.

"We met on a Saturday afternoon when I was 20 and she was 16,” he said.

"I gave her a gift of some fish that I caught in the bay and I became enchanted with her right from that moment.”

The pair became regulars at the Saturday night dances at the Seabreeze Hall once situated near the surf club.

They married in 1967 in Brisbane and had three children, Craig, Alison and Suzette, and later two grandchildren, Angus and Abbey.

Algy said the couple counted themselves lucky: "We were living here together right during Byron Bay's golden days.”

Throughout her life Larnie loved to fish and surf and her father gave her a Bennett surfboard when she was 14 years old, which he had especially freighted up from Sydney .

"She loved surfing at the Pass, Broken Head, Tallow and Wategos beaches,” he said

"She used to get up at 4am in the morning to walk around the lighthouse before she headed off to her job at the hospital.”

Larnie struggled with ill health during the last five years, dealing with bronchiolitis obliterans organising pneumonia, butshe never let it get her down.

"She had a beautiful nature but was also a very strong person, which is why she managed to fight the disease for so long,” Algy said.

"She was still visiting the lighthouse two weeks before she passed away, this year counting 1013 whales passing by the lighthouse along with 50 mothers with babies.”

Larnie was also a staunch member of the Byron Bay Malibu Club and the club is planning a paddle-out for her on September 10 from Wategos Beach.

"She was a very simple ocean woman and an icon of the area,” Algy said.

"Larnie always used to say 'bye bye whalies' when they started their journey homeward past Cape Byron.

"She has left a lot of broken-hearted people behind, she was loved by many and she was my darling girl.”

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