The fabric of any surf club is built by the people who call it home, or so believes Bellinger Valley North Beach SLSC President, Steve Steward.
It helps, he says, when you have “a nice vibe”, but it’s even more important for the vast majority – if not all – to be strong-willed, dedicated, passionate members.
It’s a three-pronged archetype that can describe the club’s entire active membership at present; the perfect team to patrol the beach and represent the region with distinction.
So, when the small north coast club, a short drive south of bigger markets in Sawtell and, further north, Coffs Harbour, celebrated its centenary in April, Steve was just as proud reflecting on the present as he was the past.
“We’re a very dedicated bunch,” he said.
“We have a small number of patrols which means more time on the beach, so we need to be.
“We cover each other. We’ve got a great bunch of people, a nice vibe, no meatheads who upset the balance, we’re all strong heads – everyone is pretty casual and we get on well.
“Our branch and our clubs work together. Sawtell has a lot of members and they don’t mind coming down to help when we need it. It’s what it’s all about.”
Clubs working together for the bigger picture – as it should be – is a vital part of the Surf Life Saving movement. It cultivates character and allows for nights like Bellinger Valley North Beach’s 100-year anniversary celebrations to be particularly sweet.
“It was a great night, certainly,” Steve said.
“The special thing was we were able to bring together the community that makes up the club now, people who have been around short and long term, and also some of the old timers.
“It makes you cast your mind back to how it was back then. Things were so different with equipment and training; things have changed so much.
“Then you see the photos and they’re full of these big, strong fellas. The beach was like a gathering place back then, everyone knew everyone.
“It meant a lot to everyone who was there to celebrate those who came before us.”
In part thanks to those solid foundations, Bellinger Valley North Beach is currently in the middle of one of its most positive periods in recent memory, in and out of the water.
Through connection to the community, the club is a true hive of activity.
“The club, as they do, has gone through ups and downs but we’re in a really good spot at the moment,” he said.
“It’s a small town, our one, so basically there’s us, the corner shop and the bowling club, so we are always expanding our services.
“We have an active gym, host a lot of functions and activities, and we have prime 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 definitely an important part of that.”
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW FOR A SERIES OF THEN AND NOW IMAGES OF THE CLUB
Tuesday 17 May 2022