Surfing has always had its own culture, particularly here in Australia. The ocean and the beach are as much a part of Australian culture, as the kangaroo, meat pie, and a snag on the barbie. You may say surfing is global, and what makes Australia’s surfing culture different from other countries? It is fairly simple, it is the boardriders club.
Boardriders clubs began to form in the 1960s, and it seemed to follow from the growing Surf Lifesaving culture. But obviously surfing’s tune-in, drop-out, and swing to the hippie side of life did not sit that well, or fit with those that wore speedos, funny caps, and liked to row big boats. For surfers it is about riding the waves not sitting on the beach doing patrolsIt turned almost into a war at times, which still has its hangover today, though the nickname of “eals” for surf life savers is rarely heard anymore.
Surfers versus clubbies, it was war on the beach. Particularly when surfboards straying into the flags back in the no-legrope days used to be confiscated by those lifesavers on patrol. Even my dad tells me of arguments and fights on the Gold Coast when a lifesaver tried to confiscate surfer’s boards. My old man straddled both sides of the fence, growing up as a competitive surf life saver, and then becoming a surfer around 1965. Now most of the lifeguards on our Gold Coast beaches are surfers, and good ones at that. They do know the ocean better than anyone else.
Gold Coast Boardriding Clubs have long been part of our culture, the first of them being the Kirra Surfriders, formed in 1962, and after a split followed by Snapper Rocks in 1963, Burleigh Boardriders in 1965, and Palm Beach in 1968.. The rivalry was strong and still is in today’s clubs. The Gold and Tweed Coasts now have more than 10 clubs from Kingcliff to the Spit, with the mighty Snapper Rock Surfriders dominating results in localevents. Stephanie Gilmore and Joel Parkinson are Snapper’s World Champion surfers, while Kirra Surfriders count 2013 World Champion Mick Fanning as their number one member.
Each club has club colours just like your local footy team, and some even have their own mascot, and strange club rituals. Let’s just say that the stories flow from today back to the 1960s of many fun and sometimes dubious exploits.
Australia’s competitive success in surfing, can be traced back to the boardriders clubs, and any Australian surfer on the World Tour will tell you that their first heat was at their local boardriders club.
Which gang (club) is the best? Well March is the month when the National bragging rites will be decided.
Last weekend, 14 – 16 March saw the Kirra Teams Challenge being held at Duranbah Beach. Teams from all over Australia come to get their hands on the trophy, the Kirra Eagle. This year Kirra celebrated 30 years of this event, with teams from Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia, NSW, and Queensland competing, 36 teams in all.
Then from 28 – 30 March sees Jim Beam National Surftag Series National Finals take place, with teams who have qualified from all over the country contesting to be the number one club in the country. It is a tag-team format, very exciting to watch even for the non-surfers. There is a big cash prize up for grabs, and team spirit is well and truly on show.
Why not check out what’s on offer at your local boardriders club, the spirit and competition of Australian surfing club culture. Best not wear you lifesaving clubby cap though.
Pictured: Blake Ainsworth at the Jim Beam Surftag event. Photo courtesy Wes Lonergan.