NICK CARROLL: The Next RSL
Seven years ago, Terry Landsberg, of Windansea Boardriders up on the Sunny Coast, sat down with former club president Tim Henley.
They started talking, and Tim wanted to know what the club most needed. “We need a home,” Terry replied.
Today, Windansea are just a bit of paperwork and some actual work away from having just that. The club has council-approved plans for a 178m/sq building on council-owned land off Buderim St at Currimundi - just one dune back from the shoreline.
It’s just the latest, and for sure not the last, example of one of the most extraordinary subterranean 21st-century trends in Australian surfing.
Since WHEN did boardriders’ clubs get clubhouses?
Well, actually since around 2001, when Peninsula Boardriders on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula began thinking about buying their very own house. As a result, the club owns a property about a kilometre from their home beach, Gunnamatta.
Current club president Lachy McDonald takes up the story here: “We had some members at the time who were real go-getters, business people who just decided to get it done. One was a merchant banker who helped organise the finance.”
Back then the club paid $180,000 for the property, amid blocks that today are going for $2 million. “We’ve had everything there from weddings to wakes, high performance training bases and post-event beers,” says Lachy. “It’s so integral to the social side of the club, it’s kind of indescribable.”
He thinks it really came down to timing. “There’s no way we could afford to do this now, I don’t think you could anywhere in Australia with the price of coastal real estate.”
The purchase led to other changes in how the club operates. It has since set itself up more professionally, drawing up a constitution in order to manage and protect the asset — just like your local bowlo or RSL. Lachy’s Dad, who has a lot of sporting club experience, compares it to a member-owned golf club, though golf clubs don’t typically have skate ramps in the back yard.
There’s an epic clause in the constitution stating that if Peninsula were to fold for any reason, the property would be passed on to the nearest existing boardriders’ club, which just happens to be 13th Beach, just across Port Phillip Bay heads. Luckily the clubs are good friends, but you can imagine some of the sledging at inter club contests.
But what if you don’t have enough money to buy a clubhouse? And let’s face it, who does.
In that case, you try other ways of putting a roof over your head. A lot of clubs have storage space at a nearby SLSC — though not all SLSCs are super psyched on sharing space with surfers.
Others dream big, like Burleigh Boardriders. Burleigh, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, actually has two clubhouses. One is a storage shed set-up at the beach, provided for them by the Gold Coast City Council. The other is Club Burleigh, a bar/venue partnership between the club and the former Gold Coast Hotel.
“We were looking for a clubhouse of some kind,” says Burleigh’s James Lewis. “At first we were thinking we might be able to do it in the building next to the swimming pool (on the point), but there was no way. Then the hotel asked us if we’d get involved.”
Club Burleigh can hold a couple of hundred people on presso nights. The walls are lined with surf pics and club trophies. The club helped develop its own beer brand, which earns them a percentage on sales and helps fund the grommet development program. They’re currently coaching around 60 kids - a lot of them ex-surf club Nippers who want to go surfing instead. In sync, Burleigh Boardriders has grown more organised, complete with a Code of Conduct that differs just a tiny bit from the old, unwritten version.
It’s a different kind of social licence perhaps, brought on by the clubs’ new level of community engagement in a world where everyone surfs.
Windansea’s Terry Landsberg says this is at the core of Windansea’s application. The club will share its home with other surf groups, such as Disabled Surfers and Indigenous Surfers, thus providing a community asset beyond its own needs. It also runs the annual Ma and Pa Bendall Classic, which has been part of the local social fabric since the 1970s, and has given the club vital cred in the eyes of the non-surfing community. This, he says, has led directly to their success with council.
You’ve got to imagine that the Bendalls — stoked, non-judgmental oldies back in a time when surf culture was a long way from owning clubhouses — would be pretty peaceful in their graves over this legacy.
Then again, you’ve gotta hope our clubs don’t end up all pokies and beer-carpet and red-faced committee members yelling at each other in meetings. Though if Peninsula’s experience is any guide, the bigger worry is whether anyone will show up. Their new constitution has come with its complications: you’ve gotta hold an annual general meeting, and thus, you’ve gotta get surfers to show up for a MEETING. Yeah right.
This year they’ve sandwiched the AGM in between the juniors and open pressos. And provided free beer. Says Lachy McDonald, “Free beer is one thing we know works.”
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