February 4 - 10, 2024: Issue 612


Palm Beach SLSC: The Summer Traditions Of A Local Surf Club In The 2023/24 Season

PBSLSC Active Members 2023/24 

Palm Beach SLSC’s clubhouse home has changed a lot since 1921 when a shed was placed, courtesy of the Barrenjoey Land Company, in the land beside the to come Peters residence - current Members clubhouse - and before the 1936 purchase of William Choley’s ‘The Rest’ as their first clubhouse. The second ‘shed’ was placed in then ‘Palm Gully Park, later Glenburnie Park and current Hordern’s Park. The third clubhouse was on the beachfront beside the then dressing rooms, built in 1924. At a Meeting held on August 7th 1929 the Council voted to remove the clubhouse from the reserve and for the construction of another further along the beach. By December 1929 this building opened, south of the council dressing sheds. This structure comprised a club room, shower room, casualty room, lavatory, verandah and boatshed. Water came via a well and windmill, with any additions funded by members.

Photos: the third shed, 1929 - note PBSLSC bunkhouse/clubhouse building in background with dark walls and light coloured roof. The Club applied to place a room for surfboards underneath but was knocked back by the council. Clearly simply stacking them against the exterior walls for quick access was practised. The first and second sheds – photo courtesy Curlewis family, second shed photo in Hordern’s from Panorama of Palm Beach, New South Wales, 7, nla.obj-162484891, PIC P865 Enemark collection of panoramic photographs [picture] courtesy of the National Library of Australia

However, it's not the clubhouses that save people on our beaches each Summer - they're just part of the structure of equipment used so that the people who fill them as Members, and what's in those people, coalesces as something extraordinary being achieved on our beaches from September through April, and persists through the off-season to be even stronger, better and more dedicated the following Season.

SLSA states it exists to save lives, create great Australians and build better communities. Through its coastal safety, lifesaving, education, sport and recreation programs and services, SLSA generates significant social and economic benefits for the Australian community each year.

Today Palm Beach SLSC is a vibrant inclusive cross-generational club that features a number of within the club carnivals each Summer that honour Club Members with one named for a foundation member, Adrian Curlewis, known as the ‘father of surf lifesaving’ in Australia. During the first week of January each year the Adrian Curlewis Masters Carnival attracts athletes from across the Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches Branch Clubs and the Surf Life Saving Sydney Branch.

It's not just visiting Members from others Clubs though. People from all over Sydney come to Palm Beach each Summer in their thousands. They visit during Spring, Autumn and Winter too, at dawn, at midnight, at 4a.m. for the dawn fishing, but Summer and hot humid weather attracts visitors in their thousands, every day, and has done so since a decent road/track was built and a bus service laid on. 

Thousands of visitors  needs hundreds of Volunteer Patrol Members to look out for them in the waters off the coast. Since 1921, the Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club has protected the lives of the community in the spirit of the First Infantry Battalion from which it takes it colours. With over 1,100 members, it has become one of the largest Clubs in Sydney’s northern beaches.

This week a few glances into one of Pittwater's finest Surf Clubs from just three Members who have 117 years of serving our local community between them.

Current PBSLSC President Alexandra Tyrell spoke about the culture at the club, which has evolved over the decades. Alexandra Tyrell is the second female President of Palm Beach SLSC, a position which she says is a big job but is honoured to undertake. Kate MacDonald became the first female president of the Palm Beach SLSC in July 2013, and steered the club for three years. Alex was Club Captain during that time. Kate was the first female Captain during the 2009/10 Season.

Alexandra Tyrell, 2023/24 President of Palm Beach SLSC:

The intake of young women into PBSLSC now equals that of young men in a club, alike other surf clubs, that was formed by men who had either served in WWI and then WWII and was restricted to men only as lifesavers until 1986. How has that culture evolved at PBSLSC in women being on the beach instead of being restricted to fundraising activities in the background? Why are there so many girls?

We are an equal opportunity club and women have long been very capable members of Palm Beach SLSC, even prior to the formation of the Pacific Club clubhouse, solely for women supporters of the club, in November 1937. Palm Beach SLSC women were instrumental in building the great club we have today.

That has only grown stronger over the last 40 years when women became surf lifesavers. At Palmy we find our women can do as much as the guys. Everyone here, whatever their gender is, is well supported to succeed. We’ve worked really hard to make it that way and a strong part of that is our focus on inclusivity. There is a credo of all being welcome because all belong.

This year our second Bronze group was 60 people. We’ve had more than 120 new Freshers join this year. The first Bronze group was 38, the second 60 and then we’ve had a coupe of smaller groups get their Bronze as well.

Everyone from our Trainers, who work so hard, to the great Committee this year has been just brilliant. There are so many people on the beach doing so much, all the time, all Season long.

Added to that, in terms of our female membership growing, we do have some great female role models within the club, as well as having great female role models on our committee. When you have that basis of sharing knowledge, supporting each other, and helping others to achieve their goals in lifesaving, which also reflect and support our growth as individual people outside of the movement, that attracts those who are looking for a place or club to start their journey in the surf life saving movement. And of course, the beach is one of the best in world too.

You joined Palm Beach SLSC in 2000 which means this is your 24th Season. Why did you join PBSLSC?

I have a family connection. My dad joined and was Chief Instructor back in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. So I’ve grown up at Palm Beach, my first swim was in the Palm Beach rockpool. For me the community at Palm Beach is a second home. I was down there today and could not walk 5 metres without running into someone and having a chat to them – it’s really lovely and a nice community. It feels like a family, everyone is there to support each other. Even though you join and come through the club with a bunch of people, you are meeting another 100 alongside your peers as well. 

The numbers we have come through each year would be among the highest in Australia and having worked on our sense of community you find that once people join they don’t leave.

We have all those amazing traditions such as the Brats, Brutes, Bruisers carnival that foster across the generations connections. Each year we have our Beach Party over Christmas and New Years. There’s a really nice progression through all of your life stages built in, especially having the Pacific and Cabbage Tree Clubs to move on to once you’ve done your active patrolling time. 

Surf Boats – you started in 2008, so the 2023/24 Season is your 16th year in this sport?

I did have two seasons off in between. I started with Midget Farrelly, then went to Matty Giblin, then Spencey and I’m now with Coxy (Sweeps). So I retired from A Grade and thought I was fully retired and then got a call a year after I was out to help out with a Reserve crew – then Covid hit – so I took a few years off over that. Then a couple of friends wanted to come back in, a few of them have had children and wanted to get back into in, so we put together a Reserve crew, the Pterodactyls, the old bird dinosaurs, and we’ve having a lovely time.

Don’t think so – you’ve already had a few wins this Season in carnivals!

Yes, we’ve had a few good results and a couple of podiums. We’re off to a few more in coming weeks, including the interstates and ASRL Open. We’ve also been notified that three of our surf boat teams have secured State representation – our Under 19’s and also the Under 23 men.

Palm Beach has had record numbers of visitors this Summer and with Members on Patrol until Tuesday 25 April 2023, what would you like those coming to the beach to be aware of?

Please swim between the flags. Please also look out for each other when you are visiting and work with the Patrols to keep yourself and your family safe. If you have any questions about what the water is doing, just talk to us – we’re there to serve you by keeping you safe.

We have around 300 active Patrol Members, and around 20+ on each Patrol. Just loo for the people dressed in bright yellow and red and the flags as that is the safest place to swim.

Palm Beach SLSC 2023/2024 Committee

  • President: Alexandra Tyrrell
  • Captain: Tim Markovitch
  • Vice Captain: Christopher Wiseman
  • Honorary Secretary: Alexandra Kah
  • Honorary Treasurer: Olivia van Veen
  • Surf Activities Chairman: Dylan Kovacevich
  • Residential Chairman: Anna McLaurin
  • Entertainments Chairman: Charlotte McBrayer
  • Competition Director: James Alexander Riley
  • Director of Training: Alexander van Veen
  • Fresher Liaison: Emma Michael
  • Member to Management: Rachel Balcomb

Alexandra Tyrrell with  2023/24 Captain Tim Markovitch - Tim served in this capacity last Season too.

PBSLSC Members Alex Tyrell and Kate MacDonald at the 2023 BBB's Carnival

Alex with some of this years' intake of female Fresher Members

Peter Spence, Palm Beach SLSC Boat Captain

PBSLSC’s Boat Division did well in the National Short Course Championship December 2023:; two 1st U23 & Open ASRL Mixed Crew Championship, two U19 1st in both Males and Females - Lifesaving Short Course Championships Gold Medallist’s and a Reserve Crew 1st, and three Palm Beach Teams have been selected to represent NSW in the 2024 Interstates Challenge on Friday, 16 February 2024 at Lorne?

Yes, we have 3 on the NSW State Team. Palmy got 3 out of the 8 picked, and the 5 others were from single clubs, so we do have the highest representation there. My under23 Men, under 19 women and under 19 men have all been picked to represent New South Wales. For 9 of the 12 in those it’s their first State Team so that’s exciting for them.

Why is PBSLSC so strong in the Surf Boat divisions?; year in year out there are multiple crews getting great results.

We’ve got a great culture at Palm Beach SLSC and a great system and we do a hell of a lot of recruiting. I spend hours and hours and make lots of phone calls to track kids down to join us. We have around 30 new recruits this year that are in boats, and had 21 crews form. A couple of those have fallen by the wayside but we still have 18 crews competing which is the largest alongside Currumbin in Queensland in terms of numbers of crews. It’s a lot of work to find the kids, they don’t fall in your lap, so there’s a lot of persistence by myself and others to follow through. We have a great number of Sweeps with Coxy(Stephen Cox) and Pebbles (Ryan Halangahu), Matty Giblin and we’ve got Mark Highfield back. We get on very well and we work collaboratively together. We’re not our own solos, we work as one club, which I think is really important when you are a big club.

How many crews are going down to Lorne this year? (the Interstate Championship is among the ASRL Open races)

We have 14 crews going down to Lorne, a big contingent. Most of them have probably never been to Lorne before and they’ll love it down there, it’s a beautiful little town. 

How many will go to Aussies?

We’re looking at, at this stage, 18 crews for Aussies. So another strong representation and contingent going north.

You are a dad now, two littlies, and your wife Stephanie is a surf boat athlete as well – what is the best thing for you about a Palm Beach and Palm Beach SLSC Summer?

Steph is in with Coxy’s Pterodactyls, they missed out on the State Team by countback but they’ve had a very good Season so far. She’s come back to row which I love, and I love seeing her not having to be a mum for a few hours and going out for a period of time and do her own exercise and thing – that time for her with the girls and the boat and Coxy is good for her. We have a four-year-old and a six-year-old now so we have to be pretty organised and we work very much to make sure she gets her training during the week, and then I’m sweeping 5 to 6 crews, so that’s a lot of time for me each week and 10 sessions training midweek. We’re lucky that we have a really good kid down there called Rory Egan, he’s only 21, and he’s developing as a new Sweep. He takes 3 to 4 sessions for me each week with some of my crews, so that eases the burden - he’s a great kid, coming along really well.

Summers for us are great. We have a gym set up at home so all our rowing crews come here at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning or the evening and do a workout. Their interaction with my kids is brilliant. My kids love all the bigger older rowers, especially our 19’s and 23’s rowers, those big tall blokes, they get along very well. In fact, all of our kids, and when I say kids I mean our younger crews in the mens and womens, get on well with our own kids. Coxy also has the same thing happening. He has two young kids and his wife Inga rows in that Reserve crew, so we’re all still heavily involved in the Club. I’ve been there 38 years now, and we couldn’t get by without all the help we get from the rowers. 

They all help with the kids when we’re racing – we’re taking our kids to carnivals and the other rowers look after them when either Steph or I are racing, they are having a great time with great people. Palmy's a big part of it – the kids love it down there, they run around on the lawn, and we make sure they’re not getting in the way of what’s going on, and the club is very accommodating. To give you an example, our four-year-old son went down while they were setting the Patrol up with some of the rowers and then went with them when they were towing the trailer down to set up the post near Black Rock. He came home that afternoon and he wanted to be on Patrol - his words were ‘I’m going to be on Patrol’. He’s been wearing a Patrol cap for the last three days at home and got his little car that he runs around in and calls that his beach buggy. So it rubs off on him, he’s already entrenched in that already and telling us he’s 'on Patrol and making sure people are safe'. He picks up great things and great habits from being around all the people at Palmy.

Some of the 16 crew strong Palmy Army for the 2022-2023 Season. Palm Beach SLSC won five gold medals in the 2022/23 National Short Course Championship & Mixed Crews Championship at Queenscliff as well. 

Peter Spence, December 2023. Photo: Surf Life Saving NSW

Gordon Lang, past SLSSNB Branch President, Past President of PBSLSC and former Masers Captain at PBSLSC

The 2024 Adrian Curlewis Masters Carnival was outstanding again this year, people from all over the local Branch and Sydney and Central Coast Branches having some fun testing each other out. As the founder of this carnival, what was your perspective?

We had a great Adrian Curlewis Carnival this year, our 15th edition of this carnival; we were blessed with the weather and ocean conditions and I thought it was a good sign when I walked on the back lawn and there was over 200 smiling faces. I thought, ‘yes, this is a success’.

Why was it important to you to start a carnival named for Adrian Curlewis as a PBSLSC event?

It was two things; at that stage we were getting a number of competitors at Palm Beach SLSC and there were a few Masters Carnivals such as the Freshie one, and I just thought it would be god to bring something back to our home ground to encourage especially Palm Beach competitors but also new competitors. I looked around and was heavily involved with the history of the Club at that time. As I learned more about it I thought, from a Club point of view, Adrian Curlewis never received the recognition he should have. He was the first Chief Instructor when the club was formed in 1921, did his time of the National Board for 37 years and the International Board as well. I knew his son Ian very well, I used to compete with Ian, and it is good to have someone whose name reaches beyond Palm Beach. At that stage there was the Adrian Curlewis Scholarship for Surf Life Saving Australia and I remember going along to meet some of the scholarship winners at Bondi. So it was a connection between the Club and the wider surf lifesaving community. It was a case of trying to get something going that would have a bit of traction with people but also a stepping stone for Palm Beach newbies to get involved – and now it’s become a major event for the new competitors for many other clubs. This is an across Members carnival at Palmy. For example, our Country Club President Simon Wiadrowski was there as a Marshall for one of the areas, and his wife Linda competes for Freshwater. 

The Masters division at Palm Beach SLSC continues to grow in Members and is always among the results at Branch, State and Australian carnivals each year, placing or winning everything from the Beach Run to Swim, Board and Ski. Where has that strong cohesion as one team come from?

Tim Gates, our Masters Captain, is doing a great job in motivating and corralling people into getting involved. We also have a history over the last 20 years, when this was started by Fiona Rae in the early 2000’s. Fi did a great job in getting a team together and getting us going.

One thing about Palm Beach that’s fairly unique is we have weekly races, which builds up our level of expertise and fitness. We travel as a group very well; whether it’s just down to Manly or Queenscliff or carnivals outside of the Sydney metropolitan area, we enjoy each other’s company and that pushes us along. 

PBSLSC Masters athletes Di van Ooi and Fi Rae will be going to Aussies again this year - Di excels in the Swims, Fi in the Ski and Board events

You have served as SLS SNB Branch President, as well as being a past President of PBSLSC. How long have you been in surf lifesaving?

I’m clocking up my 52nd Season with Palm Beach and 55th Season in total. 

What, to you, is the best thing about being a part of Palm Beach SLSC during Summer?

There’s a couple of reasons I do it. Number one is always giving something back and building community as a major part of what I do, I think that’s important. Second is the camaraderie that you get from surf lifesaving and in particular the Masters Team. I’ve got friends from other clubs in the Masters and that’s purely through competing against them and travelling and supporting the growth of Masters events here together. Thirdly it’s a way of honing your skills and maintaining fitness. If I wasn’t involved in surf lifesaving I don’t think I’d be spending as much time on fitness and keeping my skills up.

When you attend carnivals, such as the annual SLSNSW States, do you find you are all congregating together?

Yes; especially the northern end of the peninsula, the Pittwater clubs. We all tie our tents up together – Newport and Avalon, Mona Vale and Warriewood – we all know each other. In saying that, you can walk into Palm Beach and there will be someone from Bronte there, or someone from interstate. I remember we were down at the Worlds in Adelaide in 2012 and Peter had brought two people form one of the South Australian clubs to share our tent. So you can be very fierce when you’re in the water competing but when you get back on the sand there’s just a good friendly rivalry. 

Gordon Lang and Shane Oxenham (another past PBSLSC President) at 2024 BBB’s Carnival

Gordon Lang, at front, with the team from North Steyne

Palm Beach SLSC – within club Members events (some)

  • Marathon Run
  • White Horse Cup
  • Christmas Cup
  • Club Championships
  • Brats Brutes Bruisers!!!!!
  • Ted Bawden Surf Comp
  • Rainbow Patrols - Lifesavers with Pride
  • Jack Carter Cup
  • Iron Man/Diamond Lady
  • Marathon Swim
  • Marathon Board

Father and son together in the 2024 BBB's - PBSLSC is a Multi-Generational Team

A Few Pictures From The 2024 BBB's PBSLSC Carnival