Brock Little and Ross Clarke-Jones surfing Hawaii’s Waimea Bay. Picture: Dean Wilmot

Timing is everything.

As clinicians and control staff, you all know this. It counts for everything in the job.

But for Artarmon paramedic Dean Wilmot, this phrase also held true long before he was part of the NSW Ambulance family.

In Dean’s past working life, he was a celebrated surf photographer, whose ability to snap the right shot at exactly the right time saw him crowned the first-ever Australian Surf Photographer of the Year (1999).

A shot taken by Dean in Hawaii. Picture: Dean Wilmot.
Dean Wilmot.

A former senior contributing photographer at iconic Aussie surf magazine Tracks, Dean was also responsible for a cover shot - featuring former world champion Martin Potter - that would become the magazine’s highest-ever selling issue (December, 1987) at the time.

“I managed to connect with Martin Potter one Saturday morning at Whale Beach,” he said.

“I was out surfing and saw Pottz walking down the beach. Fortunately I had all of my gear in the car, so I ran back, grabbed the gear, ran back down and literally the first wave that I was set up for he just punches this gigantic backside air, which at the time, no one was doing at all.

“So I shot it, showed it to the Tracks guys and they were freaked out.

“It was sharp and it was a sick shot.”

It’s this uncanny ability for Dean to be Johnny-on-thespot which also saw him save his first life, while working as a surf photographer in Hawaii during the ’90s.

“I rescued a pro surfer called Courtney Gray at Pipeline in Hawaii,” he said.

“He got annihilated on the reef and it was very fortunate I saw him because I was just coming out of the water after shooting some photos.

“I saw his body come to the surface and I threw my camera to the beach and was skull dragging him (to shore) because there was so much water moving that it was hard to move.

“It was one of the first circumstances of saving someone’s life that stuck with me for a very long time.”

Dean - who in his career also worked at The Sydney Morning Herald, was the co-director of an Aboriginal art company and shot photos for the likes of Australian Women’s Weekly - later became a lifeguard on Sydney’s northern beaches before joining NSW Ambulance four years ago.

Dean’s shot of Martin Potter which was on the cover of Tracks in December 1987. Picture: Dean Wilmot.

His heroic Hawaii rescue effort from decades earlier contributed to him later pursuing a career in emergency services, but it wasn’t the only motivating factor. A career where people held you in high regard was also something that resonated with Dean.

“Towards the end of my photography career I was shooting things like food, architecture and advertising photos,” he said.

“I wanted to be in a job where people respected what you did.

“One of the things I love about now being in this job is when you’re driving down the road and little kids are waving at you… stuff like that I really enjoy.

“It’s great to be in a job where 99.9 per cent of the population really respect what you do. It’s very self-satisfying.”

Looking ahead, Dean is focused on progressing his career within NSW Ambulance by hopefully becoming a SOT (Special Operations Team member).