Vonu's Clubs We Love: Jan Juc Boardriders Club

18 Jul 2019 0 Share

COASTALWATCH | VONU’S CLUBS WE LOVE

A Different Offering

You’ve clicked on this article, so you already know this is a story about the Jan Juc Boardriders Club and the legends who make it what it is. But before we get to that, let’s think about two things for a quick little second – separately, but together. 1. Australian boardriders clubs. And 2. Bells Beach.

Boardriders clubs have a long and important history intrinsic to the culture of Australian surfing. Where Australian surfers have seen World dominating competitive success, you can see a – sometimes faint but always there – direct lineage to the grassroots of competitive surfing and the Aussie boardriders club movement. For as long as surfing has been considered a sport, and community in Aussie culture, boardriders clubs have been present in its core.

And there are few places better connected to the history of Australian competitive surfing than that bit of coast down in Victoria, a short drive west of Melbourne, past Geelong, through Torquay and in the heart of a little area called Jan Juc. It’s where our most famous and prestigious event, the Bells Beach Easter Rally, better known today as the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, takes place every autumn. There’s no event, nor wave, that connects the decades past to the lived present of elite Australian surfing like Bells does. It is the constant.

Curious then, isn’t it, that the boardriders club bearing the name of that zone, Jan Juc Boardriders, is one of Australia’s newest, not oldest.

Jan Juc Boardriders was founded just a few short years ago in 2016 by a couple mates who wanted to create a different offering for local surfers in their rapidly growing hometown of Torquay and Jan Juc. And like so many great Australian ideas, it was born over beers.

“The idea actually did come about after a few beers at a mate's house. We were sort of talking about it, and it started snowballing from there. And then we were like, ‘Fuck, we should just do it…'” says Jack “Snit” Stevenson, current president of JJBC.

Of course, the premiere competitive Boardriders in the area is and always has been Torquay Boardriders. It’s been around since 1978, has over 250 members, a “nationally revered junior development program”, and a list of titles and accolades longer than the Great Ocean Road. So the question could be asked, with a strong and inclusive boardriders club like Torquay right there, why bother with a new one at all?

“We saw a space for a different offering,” says Jack. “That sort of laidback, grassroots less competitive vibe... more about going down the beach for the day and hanging with your friends and having a day of competition before going down the pub at the end of the day and having a few beers and doing the presentation.”

That “grassroots less competitive vibe” line isn’t a throwaway bit of hyperbole either. It’s written and numbered as point no.2 on the Juc Boardriders charter – as if Denis Denuto drafted it himself – front and centre on their website. Specifically, it reads “2. Grassroots Surfing. No Over Competetive (sic) Vibes”.

Photo: Juc Media

Photo: Juc Media

Despite launching a fresh club in the immediate vicinity of one of Australia’s oldest, it was important to the founders of Juc to not have their club’s formation be seen as some kind of shot of disrespect to those those that had come before them. (“Respect” is point no.5 on the charter.)

“We were sort of unsure of the response we were going to get and we wanted to do the right thing, so we approached some of the older guys in the area and especially one of the key members of TBC from back in the day and ran it by him, told him what we were thinking and what we wanted to achieve and he gave us the blessing and said good on you guys.”

So they put it together, and the response was positive and immediate. Sixty to eighty members right off the bat, which they’ve “sorta put a cap on” early, the intention being to not grow huge, but to stay the right size as a core part of their local surf community – their ambitions aren’t to go out and beat the world, but to celebrate and look after their own world at home.

Jan Juc does do things a little bit differently, they hold just four club comps a year and until very recently, they had just one single open division where everyone can surf against everyone – “It doesn’t matter if you are 6 or 60, please come shred, one division, one love” reads point no. 4 on the website.

And it’s that divergence from pure competitive drive that makes them such an interesting and unique proposition in the boardriders landscape in 2019 (though it should be noted that just quietly their founding president is a Rip Curl Pro Trials winner and an Open State Champ (Tim Stevenson), and their founding Vice President is known to be on the best waves at Winkipop on its best days (Casey Egan)). With the growth and success of events like the Boardriders Battle, which is now recognised, affiliated and supported by the WSL, it’s not hard to draw comparisons between surfing and other mainstream Australian sports. Surfing is now a sport where defined pathways to very serious and very successful sporting careers are the norm, where elite grommets can spend their time equally between government funded high performance centres, and being mentored by qualified coaches at their local boardriders. It makes you wonder, that with the way these institutions are developing, if something fundamental to the wild Aussie surfing animal is being lost, and whether that's something we should be worried about?

JJBC doesn’t think so.

“That's just the natural evolution of surfing and what it is today and there's nothing wrong with that side of things at all,” reflects Jack. “If kids wanna pursue that competitive career and certain boardriders clubs can cater for their needs and help them develop their career, that's awesome, but yeah, again, the grommets that seem to be attracted to our club aren't really into that side of surfing, they more like hanging at the beach all day with their mates and getting up to a bit of mischief and just going surfing.”

So have any traditions that have formed in these early years of a club that has plans of being around forever? Jack pauses, and laughs for a moment of hesitation before divulging:

“You obviously have to be of drinking age, but we all scull a beer before the final, that being a Vonu beer, of course (nice plug!)... and then we've brought in that all the grommets in the final have to scull a carton of flavoured milk– the last comp was the first time we did it, we ran down the street and got them a Big M each, which was pretty funny, a few of them spewed up on the stairs…”

Photo: Juc Media

Photo: Juc Media

Jan Juc BOARDRIDERS CLUB 

Founded: 2016
Hashtag: #JJBCdontgrovel
Biggest Rival: Torquay Boardriders
Today’s membership: 80
Notable Members: "All the crew at JJBC"
Sponsors: Vonu, Hurley, FCS, The Beach Hotel (Juc Pub), Patagonia, Strapper Surf, Sticky Bumps 
Ethos: “Jan Juc Boardriders Club are a group of social surfers. We are all about having fun and just going surfing, where respecting the environment, elders, community, and traditions are key.”

(Like all clubs today, Jan Juc Boardriders Club relies 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 Jan Juc Boardriders at janjucboardriders.com and vonubeer.com)

Photo: Juc Media

Photo: Juc Media


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