Vonu's Clubs We Love: Elouera Boardriders

5 Jun 2019 2 Share

COASTALWATCH | VONU’S CLUBS WE LOVE

Meet the Dunny Hangers

By Nick Carroll

“Clubs used to be pretty much about one thing – getting surfers ready to be pros,” says Ryan Bridges, current president of Elouera Boardriders Club. “What we’ve begun to realise is that it needs to become more connected to the community and engaged there.”

They say the Sutherland Shire, centred on Cronulla just south of Sydney, is God’s Country. That could be, but for completely sure it’s Club Country. EBC is part of Australia’s thickest cluster of surf sports clubs. Four boardrider’s clubs and four surf clubs sandwich themselves into a single stretch of beach. (Well, a beach and a half if you include Sandshoes.)

That was true even back in 1980, when EBC was founded by a couple of groups of kids who surfed the open beachies north of Cronulla Alley. Unlike the Sandshoes, Cronulla Point and Cronulla Boardriders crews, the Elouera crew had no super defined geographical marker to call their own. Instead they gathered near an ageing toilet block on the hill above the surf, and thus became known as the Dunny Hangers. That cheeky nickname tells you a lot about club culture at the time.

Today, on the brink of its 40th year, Elouera is beginning the transition so many Aussie clubs have passed through in recent times — from a hard core contest-oriented young gentleman’s club, to something a lot broader.

If the club has a Keeper of the Flame, it’s gotta be Glenn Pringle. Glenn grew up at Elouera, learned to surf there with his dad, joined the fledgling Elouera Boardriders at the age of 10, then briefly followed his elder sister’s boyfriend to another new club. A few months later he was back at EBC, and hasn’t moved since.

“The thing that hooked me was being a starry-eyed grommet and having a lot of people encourage me,” says Glenn. He recalls the likes of Rod Katis, Rod Baldwin, Finbar and Colum O’Leary and Phil Cary: “They were just hardcore boardriding club guys. Kat was Captain Fun, shaping boards, taking the kids on surf trips. Rod was a competitive machine.”

Glenn recalls some of the cult heroes who emerged in following years: Luke Weinert, Terepai Richmond, Todd Mingram, Dave McKinley, Wylie Fowler and Kelvin Hawkins — as he says, “to name a few”.

EBC had a fair bit of success competing in the halcyon days of club comps in the 1980s, and there were some big rivalries in the Shire alone. Glenn can still recall the bigger, wealthier Cronulla Boardriders trying to pinch EBC’s hotshots.

But the Dunny Hangers were never just about that. One of the things that distinguished EBC almost from the outset was its junior program. The club began a junior division in 1989, well ahead of most other Aussie clubs. Glenn has won 11 club championships, but he doesn’t rate that too high on his list of club values. Instead, he stresses the almost unspoken men’s-shed way in which club members look after each other. “If you’re a part of the fraternity, gaining the respect of peers and raising grommets to men, that’s very much a part of it,” he says.

Connor O'Leary

Connor O'Leary

It’s the kind of approach that pays off over time, and Elouera seems great at drawing its members back into play with their broader life skills. The club’s first champ, Jason Meakins, is still an active member, running the monthly BBQ. Blake Johnston is another example. Blake was a star junior who is developing himself into one of the nation’s best surf coaches. Not only is his Cronulla Surf Academy a club sponsor, but he spends time with the top gun kids, helping them work on their skills.

Glenn says this is a trend in EBC right now: “One of the greatest things is that (recently) a lot of original members have re-joined with their kids, that’s a really cool thing to see.”

Glenn himself fits into this trend, his grommet is now a member. Finbar O’Leary is also on that list. Finbar’s son Conor dragged him into a heavier club involvement, when Conor began to develop toward the CT-level pro and club hero he is today. Finbar is now part of a re-vamped and bigger committee group led by Ryan Bridges.

Ryan grew up surfing and boardmaking in the area, and had known the Elouera crew all his surfing life, but it was only when he started actively sponsoring the club a few years ago that he got into helping run it. He’s well aware of surfing’s changing demographics – more girls, parents coming down to contests to help with their kids – and knows the club will need to move again with the times.

It’s led to much discussion about changing the balance between traditional pointscore club rounds and more inclusive styles of competition, fun days and the like. EBC recently decided to cut the pointscores to nine per year, and use the other three months for things like the Dunny Bowl Day tag-team charity event. The club has also been lobbying council for some storage space – ironically in that same old toilet block.

Indeed, in this tight surf zone with its many users, space is at a premium. EBC and the area’s three other clubs are limited to one contest day a month, each. The council assigns the day in advance –which means if your day comes and it’s flat or howling sou-east, tough luck.

In response, EBC and its rivals have come up with a tacit yet fascinating work-around. Up to the age of 16, Shire grommets can “float” between clubs, surfing in all the contests they want –Cronulla’s, EBC’s, whomever’s.

Only at 16 are they required to choose where they belong. “It means every club has to lift their game,” says Glenn. “Make sure we’re the one they choose.”

(Like all clubs today, EBC relies more and more on funding from like-minded sponsors to help grow and fit the changing needs of its community. Vonu Beer is proud to back Australian club surfing at roots level. For more, check out Elouera Boardriders at and vonubeer.com)

ELOUERA BOARDRIDERS CLUB 

Founded: 1980
Founding myth: “The Dunny Hangers"
Ancient foe: Cronulla Boardriders
Today’s membership: 80
Superstars: Connor O’Leary, Shane Campbell, Jarvis Earle.
Sponsors: Vonu, Quiksilver, Carve Eyewear, Surf Dive n’ Ski, Force 9, Cronulla Surf Academy, Rip Curl
Mission statement: Expand into the community, embrace a broader membership, look after the grommets

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