The fabric of every surf club is built by the people who call it home, believes Steve Steward, president of the Bellinger Valley North Beach SLSC.
It helps, he says, to have a “fun vibe,” but it’s even more important for the vast majority—if not all—to be strong-willed, committed, passionate members.
It is a three-tiered archetype that can describe the entire active membership of the club at this point; the perfect team to patrol the beach and represent the region with distinction.
So when the small club on the north coast, a short drive south of the larger markets in Sawtell and, further north, Coffs Harbor, celebrated its centenary in April, Steve was as proud of the present as he was of the Past.
“We are a very committed group,” he said.
“We have a small number of patrols, which means more time on the beach, so we have to.
“We cover each other. We have a great group of people, a fun atmosphere, no jerks to upset the balance, and we are all strong heads – everyone is pretty casual, and we get along well.
“Our location and our clubs work together. Sawtell has many members, and they don’t mind coming to help if we need it. That’s what it’s all about.”
Clubs working together for the bigger picture – as it should be – is an essential part of the Surf Life Saving movement. It cultivates character and makes nights like Bellinger Valley North Beach’s 100th-anniversary celebrations especially sweet.
“It was definitely a great night,” said Steve.
“What was special was that we were able to bring together the community that now makes up the club, people who have been there on a short and long-term basis, and some veterans.
“You think back to how it was then. Things were so different with equipment and training; things have changed so much.
“Then you see the pictures, full of these big, strong guys. The beach then was like a meeting place; everyone knew everyone.
“It meant a lot to everyone there to celebrate those who came before us.”
Thanks in part to that solid foundation, Bellinger Valley North Beach is currently in the midst of one of the most positive periods in recent history, in and out of the water.
Connecting to the community makes the club a real hive of activity.
“The club, like them, has gone through ups and downs, but we are in a very good place at the moment,” he said.
“It’s a small town, ours, so basically there’s us, the corner shop, and the bowling club, so we’re always expanding our services.
“We have an active gym, host many functions and activities, and we’re in a great position to use the river, so we see a lot of paddling.
“Physically, the positioning of where we are is quite unique and magical, and the club and its members are a big part of that.”
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW FOR A RANGE OF THE CLUB BEFORE AND NOW
Tuesday, 17 May 2022