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For over a century the Coogee clubhouse has stood prominently on the rock platform at the southern end of the iconic Sydney beach…Solid, immovable, weathering the worst that Mother Nature had to offer.

That is until June 2016.

By nature of its geographical position the worst of the swells usually sail harmlessly past the clubhouse, but on the evening of Sunday 5 June events didn’t quite turn out that way.

A powerful swell with waves of up to 5 metres is being driven by an East Coast Low inexorably towards the Eastern Suburbs beaches with the clubhouse directly in its path. At high tide it happened.

A strong set came through decimating the wall and windows of the lower level, destroying the gym and leaving a trail of its destruction in its wake.

The immediate aftermath was a nightmare for club president Mark Doepel and the members of the Coogee club as they anxiously waited for news to see if the structural integrity of the building remained intact.

The news was positive, the foundations had done their job once more, and the club could begin the arduous task of assessing the damage and cleaning up which had widened to include the storage facilities at the northern end of the beach.

More than 250 club members attended a hastily organised working bee where they managed to clear out over a hundred tonnes of sand of the storage shed.

Work progressed rapidly in the rebuilding process. Already the club has been completely cleaned out, windows have been replaced and they’re in the process of replacing the gym, education and training equipment.

The club has been overwhelmed with community support which has included the Coogee Bay Hotel and the Coogee Chamber of Commerce, during what club president Mark Doepel describes as an “exhausting and emotional” journey.

“It’s been a roller coast ride and very surreal with how much support we have had. It’s ranged from a local business bringing us coffee to the English Rugby team donating $2000 dollars.

“What has stood out for me is how love and affection there is for not only Coogee club but also for the organisation as a whole. You don’t have to be a member to identify with what has happened here. It might be our club but there are no walls and that really has been reinforced to me. The community values what lifesavers stand for and this has just been heartening to see,” Mr Doepel said.

With the unstoppable force of the community behind the club Coogee SLSC achieved what they said they would all along, and last Saturday 24 September, the first day of the new patrol season, the red and yellow flags were planted in the sand and their members were back on duty.


Sunday 2 October 2016