It all started back in the early to mid nineties as more and more longboards started appearing out in the lineup. There were new faces and old faces all having fun together. As the camaraderie grew a few of the boys started to ponder the formation of a Bondi Beach longboarding club. Eventually, after interest was canvassed, the first meeting was held at the North Bondi RSL with 18 people turning up. The RSL or “Bondi Rathouse” as it is better known is now the official and unofficial meeting spot and watering hole for local longboarders.
The club founders were Garry Parkinson, Tony O’Brien and David Byron. The first contest was Sunday 14 March 1995. Other original members that helped organise and develop the club were John Campbell, Karl Kristie, Hymie Munitz, Russell Fox and Steve Leslie. Also Russell and Teri Mares, who had moved to the Central Coast, came down to impart their surf club running skills. And, of course, Joanne East and Karen Largey have been the administrative backbone of the club.
In those early days nine-foot, eight-foot and a unique seven-foot division were keenly contested. Then the “eights” and “nines” were combined about a year later with the demise of the seven footers not occurring till early 1999. It was felt the these shorter boards had served their purpose as a bridge or entry point into the club and into true longboarding as many new members started out on mini mals and then got turned on to the joys of nine footers and quickly bought one for themselves.
The original contest format was a straight elimination with heats in the respective divisions followed by semis and finals. Eventually this system gave way to a two round point score format. The biggest plus of this system is that it maintains everyone’s interest and attendance all day thus making the BBQs and drinks bigger and better. Currently a “final” is surfed at the completion of the second round with the highest placed competitors over the two rounds qualifying to battle it out for the coveted monthly trophy. Monthly trophies are also awarded to the grommets and over 45s.
Going back to the foundation year the other big event was the “Endless Reunion” which was held over three days with Bondi Boys from the 1950s to the early seventies coming from Europe, California, Hawaii and all over Australia to relive those glory days. Bondi Longboard Club members were on the organising committee and the “Reunion” in turn generated more interest in the club which resulted in a further swelling of membership numbers.
Today membership is eclectic and by no means an insular Bondi affair. New members come from far and wide and are always welcome. The club came of age in March 2000 when it hosted the Inaugural Bondi Longboard Classic which attracted nearly 90 competitors from all over Sydney and up and down the NSW coast.
The new Club Patron is Barry McGuigan better known as Magoo.
Here is a quick memory provided by Barry :
It was 1963 at the Makaha contest (I will never live that down) Aub Laidlaw was a dedicated council employee but had difficulty accepting Bluey Mayes and his breakaway “Cornel Wilde” modern surfies up at the north end of Bondi. I started surfing “toothpicks” at Nth Bondi in 1942 on a 14footer made by Roy Ferguson. I started my interest in yoga after reading a book at Ross Kelly”s place and could see the common sense of the science, which has helped me to keep the interest in surfing. Who discovered Green Island I’m not sure. It may have been Bluey on one of his south coast surfing trips…During the early fifties – between the toothpicks and the balsa boards – a group of us took up spearfishing, complete slaughter it was, starting at South Head and working our way back to Nth Bondi filling up the boat with jewies, groupers , morwong and lobster and selling the lot to the chinese resturants in Dickson St. In 1953 Scott Dillion & myself went for our overseas trip, stopping off at Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to spear fish, then on to England where we bought an old London taxi , flew it across the English Channel and toured around Europe for 9 wks , a real eye opener as it was just after WW2. Back to England, worked for a few weeks then shipped off to Toronto Canada, where we worked as butchers and salesmen. Scotty got a special license to drive a brand new ford ranch wagon across America to Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. He was told only 2 people were to go and limit on the speed and a specified route.
As it happened it ended up six people, all our gear and the speed limit and route were forgotten. We finished up in California well behind delivery time. Saw our first balsa board at Hermosa Beach, it was 12foot long with huge flutes on the bottom. We finally arrived in Vancouver where the oil & tyres were changed and the car was put in the showroom and sold as a new car.
A few added words from an old mate, John ‘Red Ted’ Sullivan :
Barry qualified for the Makaha contest as the Tasmanian Champion. On one of his last visits to Hawaii the lifeguards at Pipeline told Barry & John (Wheels) Williams (a former Sth Bondi, originally Byron Bay, surfer, who is now a tennis coach in Hawaii) that they were too old. Barry was one of Roma Blair’s first yoga students and used to amaze all the young blokes when he stood on his head with feet in a full lotus position for about an hour at a time.
Barry and his wife Debbie live at Norah Head where he is an active member of the Central Coast Malibu Boardriders Club. The annual Magoo Charity Classic raises money for cancer charities. At age 73 Barry is considered a veteran but would dispute that term. He had a long career in the NSW Fire Brigade finishing as Station Officer at Bondi. Along with Ross Kelly, Barry Ross, Dennis Collette and Bluey Mayes, he was one of the founding members of the South Bondi Surfboard Riders Club which congregated in an old boatshed (the polio pit) next to where Bluey’s ashes are interred. He was also a member of the WindanSea Surf Club (the Australian branch was formed by Dennis Lindsay, Dave Spencer and Max Bowman).
John tells me has plenty more stories which we might get out of him in future newsletters.
The Bondi Longboard Club’s Previous Club Patron was Mr Ross Kelly. Ross, who until fairly recently, was still surfing on his trademark “77” numbered boards and is a true Bondi surfing pioneer.
Back in 1956 Ross was one of the founders of the South Bondi Boardriders Club, which was the first boardriders club in Australia.
Around 1962 Ross along with Mick McKelvey, Dennis Colette and Bob Evans founded the Australian Surfing Association (ASA) which has evolved into what is known today as Surfing Australia. The Association’s first milestone was the staging of the Australian Invitational Titles that were held at Bondi Beach in 1963. This event was huge with thousands of spectators, television coverage and the general works. Up until then competition had mainly been a Sydney southside / northside affair. Ross was also a judge at these titles.
In 1964 Ross together with Bob Evans was instrumental in organizing the World Championships which of course were staged at Manly. Ross was head judge on this occasion and in the lead up was responsible for securing sponsorship.
The following year, the newly founded International Surfing Association held the World Championships in Peru. Ross represented Australia and again he was one of the judges.
Closer to home Ross opened and operated the surfwear shop “Gas Works” at Bondi Junction. “Gas Works” was a forerunner of many of today’s surf clothing brands.
Another major Ross Kelly achievement was one that all surfers today should be indebted to. This was preventing the Surf Lifesaving movement and local government from outlawing surfboard riding from many beaches. Through persistent lobbying and negotiations putting surfer’s rights in the limelight this draconian proposal eventually failed. We often whinge about the size of the surfboard riding area not realizing that without people like Ross the entire beach could have been off limits for board riders.