Volunteers At The Heart Of State Champs

Every day of the 2015 NSW Surf Life Saving Championships from before dawn to late in the evening, a group of dedicated clubbies from Ocean Beach and Umina Surf Clubs worked feverishly behind the scenes to ensure that the carnival was a success.

Around 150 volunteers were part of the ‘Working Party’ and they did a range of tasks including general logistics such as shifting barriers and moving the infrastructure to where it was needed, catering, organising the club barbeque, manning the carparks, and being unofficial tour guides of the local area.

Many of these clubbies signed up for the entire tour of duty, with each on average giving 80 hours of their time to the cause, and some clocking up more than a hundred.

A core group of these volunteers have been involved each time that Ocean Beach-Umina has hosted the State Championships and are old hands at what is required to stage an event of this magnitude.

Chairman of the Organising Committee Brett Harrod was delighted with the spirit and efforts of the volunteers over the duration of the championships.

“Our main goal as hosts of the State Champs is for everyone to walk away from the event and say they had a really good time,” he said.

Mr Harrod points to one incident that highlights just how invested the clubs are to making sure that the event runs as smoothly as possible, even allowing for the vagaries of the weather that a surf sport carnival usually brings.

“The night before the start of the Age Championships the high tide was playing havoc with the tents, gear and other equipment on the beach, and was in serious danger of being washed away. An emergency SMS was sent out, and this was pretty late in the evening by this point, and more than 80 people from the two clubs came down and pitched in to help relocate everything further up the beach. It was an amazing effort.”

He remains very thankful for the community support that allows the carnival to go ahead, and was philosophical about the conditions that again made life difficult at times during the championships.

“I would like to really thank the local residents for again being so cooperative as we know it is an impost on them. Thanks to Gosford City Council, and in particular Mayor Lawrie McKinna, CEO Paul Anderson, and the support of our local member Chris Holstein.

“There have definitely been some challenging conditions during the Nippers carnival but it’s great seeing the life savers of the future getting in and having a go. After all this is what surf sports is all about,” Mr Harrod said.

Umina club stalwart Danny Cunningham laughs at the term Barbeque Guru, but as the man responsible for co-ordinating all the logistics involved in what amounts to a key fundraising role for the host clubs, the importance of his work cannot be understated.

“It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. We’ve got a core group of about 20 who work on the barbeque daily, and it’s a challenge to get everything to where it has to be,” said Mr Cunningham.

“We all worked on a rostered system and would usually have about 24 of us during peak times. It was a good opportunity to work together and support the club.”

To give some indication of the scale of the work that confronts the BBQ crew here are some numbers from the Age Championships alone.

BBQ Fast Facts:

  • 300kg of bacon cooked
  • 3200 sausages consumed
  • 50kg of onions peeled
  • 600 bottles of sports drinks sold

Ocean Beach’s Elaine Unger headed up the catering department every day of the championships. Working out of her home surf club this small team faced the mammoth task of ensuring that all the officials and volunteers were fed throughout the championships.

“Every morning a group of about six to ten of us come in to start working on the day’s meals. We usually make lunches for about 350-400 people daily. It’s a huge task, but it’s something that we all take a lot of pride in doing,” she said.

“Hosting the championships is very special for us as a club. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with old friends, make new ones and enjoy the social aspect of it. It’s a lot of very hard work, but ultimately very rewarding.”

Surf Life Saving NSW would like to thank every volunteer who contributed their time to helping out at the 2015 State Championships. Your dedication and effort is very much appreciated.

Photograph: Members of the Work Party take a break from a hard day of work to smile for the camera.

Wed 18 Mar 2015