President Ford To The Rescue
The argument about which was the first surf club has been going on since surf lifesaving first began in Australia in 1903, with Bronte Surf Club being the frontrunner in many a debate.
But there is definitely no argument about who is the first Bronte club member to be elected as the president of Surf Life Saving Australia.
That honour goes to Graham Ford after he recently got the nod over two other candidates as the head honcho of SLSA.
And that in itself is also a milestone as Graham became the first non-SLSA board member in more than 100 years to be appointed to the position.
He is no slouch when it comes to surf lifesaving though, and has been the president of Bronte Surf Club for more than ten years and a board member for fifteen.
Graham said he will be focusing on getting back to the grass roots of surf lifesaving and getting the volunteer surf lifesavers the recognition they deserve.
“The SLSA brand is more widely recognised than Coca Cola and for that reason we need to aim at some of the smaller clubs around Australia who have for too long struggled in the wilderness,” he said.
“Those clubs in the remote areas need the assistance far more than the big clubs who can support themselves.
“It’s the small club members and their supporters who need the help and we hope to channel more resources into those areas.
“We are also looking at developing a national strategy which will be available on a 24/7 capacity like the 13SURF hotline, developed by Surf Lifesaving NSW, which has saved more than 100 lives this year.”
He said it was time for everyone to start working together on the beach and to eliminate the ‘us and them’ element that has been prevalent among the volunteer lifesavers and professional lifeguards.
“We are all there for the same reason and there is really no need to compare both services as saving people’s lives on the beach is the top priority,” he said.
“Most of the professionals have a surf lifesaving background and came up through the Nippers ranks, so almost all of their ocean skills and training were gained through the surf club movement.”
Graham will still continue in the role as Bronte Surf Club president as there is no constitutional reason why he can’t wear both hats.
He recently returned from the World Surf Lifesaving Championships in Egypt, where he was team manager for Bronte and picked up two world titles himself in Masters competition.
Saltwater runs through the veins of the Ford family with his son Stephen also the organiser of the Bondi to Bronte swim, which was started by Graham and celebrates its 10th anniversary on December 5.
His wife Trish has been a stalwart in the club with her hands-on approach and has rarely missed an event, which has seen her five children move through both the junior and senior ranks. Daughter Geri is currently the club’s administration assistant.
And with six grandchildren getting involved in Nippers it won’t be too long before another generation of Fords is fitted out for the red and yellow uniforms.