The 107 year old club gets a facelift
The renovated $7 million North Bondi Surf Club finished in 2013 is a marvel – designed by renowned architectural firm Durbach Block Jaggers, its glass surfaces glean and the roof seems to swoop downwards in concert with the waves that crash just metres away. It’s an impressive structure, but it’s also a second home to the club’s 550 active members, says 23-year-old volunteer lifeguard Reece Holland. “You wouldn’t call it a job, it’s a lifestyle,” says Holland.
It helps that he gets to volunteer with girlfriend Zoë Whitfield, who became a member when she moved up from Victoria. “When I moved here I knew no one,” she says. “The club opened up so many doors.”
A typical day sees them rising with the sun to train in their specialties – swimming and ski paddling, respectively – before patrol. They check the conditions and help set up the beach, and then keep a watchful eye over the waters. “Just knowing that you’re protecting people is very rewarding – once I pulled two kids out of the water who were near drowning,” says Holland. “You will also meet probably the best friends of your life here.”
That thought mirrors the values that Grant McMah has tried to instil in the club during his 11 years as president. “The opportunities, the friendships, the camaraderie: you just can’t get it anywhere else,” he tells us. The physical changes to the club are obvious, he says, but the building is a signifier of changes inside the club. “When women were allowed to do the Bronze Medallion in 1980, that was the catalyst for regeneration. With the women come the families; it’s really become a community organisation.
The club was established in 1906, and when we ask McMah what will keep it going through the next hundred years, he says it’s simple: “The kids. When the kids are engaged, they learn the ideals of surf lifesaving while doing their bit for the community. The world opens up for them.”
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