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Local Surf Clubs Smash ‘Golf Club’ Stigma

By Joel Bevilacqua on November 30, 2018 in News

Bronte power brokers, by James Hutton

A number of our Eastern Beaches surf life saving clubs have been making a conscious effort to become more welcoming in an attempt to lose their ‘golf club’ stigma, and Bronte SLSC is leading the charge.
Surf clubs do a lot of good work on Australian beaches. However, when it comes to non-members hanging around surf clubs, things can sometimes get a little bit… uncomfortable.

“Surf clubs can sometimes be like golf clubs,” Bronte SLSC President Basil Scaffidi told The Beast.

“They can be intimidating. There are ‘members only’ signs everywhere and people just don’t feel welcome.”

Maroubra SLSC’s director of memberships, Linda Hession, said they too have felt the burden of this stigma.

“Very often with a lot of people we’ve found they feel like they can’t walk across that threshold into a surf club,” Ms Hession said.

“We’re trying to engage people to come in and feel welcome.”

To help change this perception, Bronte SLSC has embraced a section of a new policy passed by Surf
Life Saving Australia – policy 1.02 – which allows non-members to use equipment during club-organised training sessions for a 120-day trial period, based on them showing competency in the water.

Bronte SLSC has been making the most of this policy by inviting non-members along to paddling sessions and allowing them use of its facilities.

But not all clubs have embraced policy 1.02.

Bronte SLSC’s head of surf sports, David Finnimore, recognised that every beach is different and that this policy may appeal to some clubs and not others. However, he also said that in some cases an old-school approach may be to blame.

North Bondi SLSC is one club that has not embraced policy 1.02. The club also has much stricter rules when it comes to non-members using facilities. North Bondi’s president, Mark Cotter, explained its position.

“That’s one of the advantages of being a member of a surf club and contributing to the lifesaving aspects of the surf club and doing voluntary patrols, then you get these benefits,” Mr Cotter said.

“We want to attract people and we want to be seen as a good community service, not some elitist club or whatever you want to call us.

“For us to manage, it is difficult because it’s certainly not elitist, but there’s obviously certain privileges that come along with committing x amount of time to the community.”

Bronte SLSC’s efforts to be more welcoming go much deeper than just embracing policy 1.02. Its relationship with the local surfers is perhaps the biggest deviation from normal surf club operations.

Historically, surf clubs and surfers haven’t been the best of friends, yet Mr Finnimore told The Beast that Bronte SLSC has asked Waverley Council to include a storage space for the Bronte Boardriders Club in design plans for its new clubhouse.

“We want them to be part of the surf club,” he said.

“They’re in the surf 365 days a year, they help out when rescues are needed at times; we want those guys to feel that the club is part theirs as well.

“Most of them did Nippers here when they were younger and we are seeing them now return with their own kids in Nippers.”

Bronte, North Bondi and Maroubra SLSCs commendably all open their doors to charity events and fundraisers, free of charge. Bronte has gone a step further, though, allowing pilates, first-aid courses and presentation evenings, all for non-members, to be held at the club.

“We’re always pretty open to helping them use our function space,” Mr Finnimore said.

“We don’t just close the doors on anyone else.”

Mr Scaffidi believes all clubs should be more generous with their facilities when they are not being used.

“I think all surf clubs need to have that type of attitude because there are so many days of the year, especially in winter, where the clubs are not used in the day,” he said.



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