Mick Fanning at Kirra January 2011 (Mick joined fellow members of the KSC celebration) photo by Simon Muirhead
Congratulations to the Kirra Surfriders Club for hosting their very successful 50th anniversary at the Coolangatta Hotel on Saturday 28th, January. It was one of the biggest surfing reunions seen in a long time with as many as 300 guests turning up from the five generations of surfing. Jessie the Eagle from Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (representing the KSC ‘s mascot) headed the afternoons ceremonies and a roll call of Presidents from the sixties right up to the new millennium all spoke passionately about their involvement of their club.
KSC Life Members (Life Membership) of the club gather for a photo. Pic: Lynn Simondson/Surfin Snapps
Live Bands comprising of former KSC members Jamie Kasdaglis (Living Room Band), Jeff Helismo (Ulo) and Larry Taylor provided plenty of good old rock and roll, plus there were movies and photos of the KSC’s history, a mechanical surfboard for the grommets and an extremely stoked John Vale won a $5,500 trip to the Mentawai’s thanks to Perfect Wave was drawn on the day.
Their first Club President Tony Butler was only 15 when elected in 1962, “We were only kids and surfing perfect waves at Kirra with a handful out,” said Tony who admitted his memory is a little hazy from those early embryonic days. “The idea was to form a club to give our members competitive experience and having a good time some of which shouldn’t be mentioned!” Butler remembers when the club had its first competition with the Maroubra Boardriders with a young Gordon Merchant (Billabong founder) a Maroubra member. “Both our clubs met down at Byron Bay where we slept overnight at the Pass!” He credits the early committee of Mal and Barry Sutherland, Curly Pinnegar, Brian Woodrick, George Hawker, Joe Larkin [pictured above] the late Bill Stafford Senior and John Charlton senior for guiding the club.
KSC's first meeting was held in the ladies downstairs showers as “it was bigger than the mens!” Tony’s father was managing the Kirra Hotel and Tony’s bedroom was above the public bar overlooking Kirra Point! “That was the view I woke up to every morning!”
Meetings became mobile from the Kirra Surf Club to the Kirra Hotel then across to the Patch (Queensland Hotel) at Greenmount until the mid 90’s when the Kirra Surf lifesaving club gave the KSC their own clubhouse room for meetings held every month.
Life members Mick Fanning and Joan Peterson (MP's mother) cut the cake. Pic: Lynn Simondson/Surfin Snapps
Dual World Champion Mick Fanning joined past and current members in celebrating the milestone 50th anniversary. Mick, and his brothers Ed and Sean, joined Kirra in the early nineties when the Fanning Family moved to Coolangatta from Ballina. There’s no denying that joining the Kirra Club helped Fanning’s surfing immeasurably and that the grass roots level of club competition uniquely Australian developed his competitive skills.
We caught up with Mick for this interview prior to celebrations:
Q. When did you join Kirra?
A. I think it was about 17 years ago now, when I first moved up from Ballina and joined. It’s been good and hilarious; we would go to The Patch (notorious Greenmount Hotel Beer garden now defunct) for our meetings! I always remember Tommy Peterson (Michael’s younger brother) coming up with the most random calls ever. It was so funny! There have been different people as Presidents over the years like Poe Cross, Darryl Green, and Ray Manicarus. The good old boy’s Danny Tukino, Jason Frost, Craig ‘Scat’ Pitchers, those guys lead the way for us as groms and taught us all about being in a club and the different rivalry’s that were already there with Snapper and stuff like that. It was really cool and great to be part of Kirra. Some of the friends I met in the club are still good friends today and yeh it’s been fun!
Kerry Gill and Mick Fanning. Pic: Courtesy of Kerry Gill
Q. Joining Kirra obviously helped you and Sean (Mick’s late brother who died in a car accident in 1997 with fellow KSC member Joel Green).
A. Yeh, definitely. When we first joined up it was super intercompetitive surfing and I was already into other sports at the time like soccer. Sean was coming on really strong and made the Aussie Titles at the time. It definitely helped having the support of a club that was really really strong as a kid helping up to get to events and paying for training here and there. It’s been great!
Q. You’ve been a big part of the clubs history.
A. Yeah I guess so. (laughs)
Q. I would imagine that there have been many memorable moments, are there any that come to mind.
A. So many. The first trip away was so funny when it use to be the Quiksilver Surf League and I went down to Cronulla and Avoca a couple of times. I don’t know why but we had Tommy Peterson as our head coach! He came up with some good stuff, mate he was so funny. Probably the best time was when Tommy accosted a couple of the boys including my brother Ed when they went out on the town and partied too long. We had to drive home and Tommy cracked the shits and somehow he found them and when he did he clipped them over the head! It was such a comedy and by the time everyone got back on the bus everyone was friends again.
Q. So lots of character building in the Kirra Club.
A. Yeh definitely Tommy. Danny and Frosty were always getting up to some mischief. Great characters like Jason Spence, there were heaps of guys like that for me in my first few years in the club and helped me to learn some valuable lessons.
Q. It’s great that the ASP have allowed for the likes of you, Parko, Kieren, Owen etc. to surf for your clubs outside of the world tour events.
A. I think it’s great for us to be able to come back and to give back to the clubs that helped us along the way. I think that club surfing in Australia is the thing that grooms the kids at such a young age and teaches them about competitiveness and also the friendship within the competitiveness. That’s something that you only learn at a club level, learning to be able to let it go. Without club surfing there is no way we would be as strong as we are today as a surfing nation. Club surfing is uniquely Australian!
This early legacy has allowed the Kirra Surfriders club to develop into one of the great Australian boardriding clubs of today.
Its roll call of surfers is legendary and boast such high profile names such as Joe Larkin, John Standing, Keith Paul, Allan Balmer, Graham Black, Furry Austin,Hacka Allen, Les Aberdeen, PT, Rabbit Bartholomew, Michael Peterson, Tommy Peterson, Dave McDonald, Kerry Gill, Ray Manicarus, Jason Buttenshaw, Reg Riley, Kevin Charman, Tony Ray, Sam Watts, Scat Pitchers, Danny Tukino, Jason Frost, Jason Spence, Ismael Trotter, Jamie Kasdaglis, Luke Costello, Stuart Darcy, Aaron Pinniger, Neil Purchase Jnr , Robbie Cohen, Damon Harvey, Darren Handley , Dru Adler, John “Bearsey” Cummings, Dean Lock, Mick Rabbidge, Joel Pitchers, Brad Lancaster, Adam Fletcher, Joel Green, Ed, Sean and Mick Fanning, Corey Ziems, Asher Pacey, Clancy Dawson, Jason Stevens, Nathan Bartlett, Matt Lee, Dale Richards, Jack Freestone, Justin Holland, Sam Clift, Jake Cumberland plus the girls from John Charlton’s daughters Carol, Robyn, Denise, Sally Paxton, Serena Townend, Colleen Deane, Donna Cash, their first women’s President Debbie Long, Trudy Todd, Rochelle Scammell, Brittani Nichol etc., some have passed away, some have left and joined other clubs but the spirit of KSC remains as solid as ever.
Another presso night, another ripper. Pic: Kerry Gil
Rochelle Scammell whose Dad Graeme was a former President and Mum Lynn helped to apply successfully for a Government grant to set up their first clubhouse was quoted in the Book, “Beyond the Green Room” published in 2001, as saying, “Kirra isn’t just a surfriding club but an organisation that works on team effort and Family spirit! Without this KSC wouldn’t be where it is today!” And that pretty well sums up the Kirra Clubs spirit perfectly.
PT, Rabbit and Kerry Gill (L), MP at the Stubbies (R), Pic: Merkel/Swell
Quotes from the KSC members
– Kirra Surf Club’s first President Tony Butler
"My most significant memories of Kirra are naturally the awesome Kirra Point break, total lack of crowds, total lack of surf rage, great mates, post cyclonic surf conditions and paddling out from Greenmount and ending up off Kirra Point, one wave and walk back to Greenmount and do it all again. On a shelf at home I have the original “senior” trophy I won at the 1st Club Championship. The wooden trophies were handmade by Barry Sutherland and consisted of surfboards mounted on a laminated stand. I occasionally look at that trophy and I am so proud that I was part of the earliest formation of Kirra and what it has become today. Kirra Surfriders Club has the right to be very proud of its work over the 50 years in nurturing the growth of its members, its fantastic achievements, its list of champions and the enormous efforts made by the various committees, volunteers, the dedicated support by parents and the KSC traditions. Who would have thought that an idea floated 50 years ago by a dedicated bunch of guys and gals would have culminated in the advancement of surfing in Queensland. Well done and congratulations to all. You deserve to be very proud of KSC.
– Lawrie “Curly” Pinniger foundation member and first Treasurer.
"In 1960 before we started Kirra Surf Riders Club, most of the guys& girls who were to go on to be the first foundation members, lived between Bilinga and Coolangatta. Our school on Kirra hill was attended, by the early members, from the 1950's to the 1960's. Eight years at primary school in those days. Joe Larkin had not started making boards yet, in Coolangatta, so we had two board brands. Graham Merrin had McDoughah surf board agency at Kirra. Graham was a Kirra member and then left to start up as the first president of Snapper Rocks club. Mal Sutherland, at Kirra had the Scott Dillon board agency and the town surfers choose which brand they liked. It was an old era still, where if you went to Hawaii we had to go by ship as there were not so many plane flights. Not many people had been out of the country for an overseas holiday. Our board shorts were made by a local lady, Ruby Wright, out of curtain material, as there was no big time board shorts makers in Coolangatta then. Some cars still did not have board racks so we would open all doors, lay the boards on the roof, run the ropes through the car over the boards, tie off the ropes, close the doors and off we would go. Long hair was frowned upon and not having a job was a sin. The police would often raid the surf pavilions looking for surfing lay abouts.
MP and Andy McKinnon representing KSC in a 70's Rip Curl wetsuit ad (L) Pic: Mick Eyre. And PT's famous soul arch (R) Pic: Marty Tullemans
Early sixties there was a rebellion against formality and we took our boards roamed and surfed the different surf breaks, all over the place. Late 1962 early 1963 we were asked by Maroubra board riders to meet at Byron bay and have a contest. With the help of John Charlton, Joe Larkin, Mal Sutherland, we had a meeting in John Charlton’s ladies dressing rooms. Tony Butler was first president, Barry Sutherland vice president, Allan Balmer contest director; Brian Mercer& Curly Pinniger handled secretary and treasurer jobs. Tony Butler and Curly Pinniger were working John Charlton’s beach hire in the summer holidays of 1961 to 1963. We hired boards for 6 shillings an hour and some days we gave surf lessons, 6 shillings for the board 4 shillings for the lesson. We would teach them for 10 shillings for an hour and a half. The hire boards were old M.P.I. and their foam sank and the stringers were left about one inch above the deck .Fortunately Joe Larkin made a new fleet of hire boards and then we had some great boards to hire out. KIRRA SURF RIDERS were a nice group of guys & girls and it gave us good company and a place to be when there was no surf or the weather was bad. Like all young people we would get up to a few adventures like sailing the quick cats of Kirra beach and out into the surf. Bob Ryan [Bogangar bob], John Charlton, Herman Zonneveld, Doctor Nelson, Doug Roughton, were all the good sailors but they often needed us young surfers as a sheet hand. They later went on to form the gold coast catamaran club. We would drive our old v8 cars on the beach, attach a rope behind the car, jump on a board and tow the surfer behind skurfing out to Tugun and Then back to Kirra, via the shallow water. The police would arrest you for that now. We organised a boat and a group of us went out and had a go at surfing 9 mile reef. Big and not so enjoyable. Now and then we would grease up the railway track so the train would have trouble getting out through the cutting in Kirra hill. If there was a heavy date going on, the sick bay bed at the school was a good spot for some passion. No security guards in those days. Some early Kirra members organised a surfing trip from home to Perth in 1963 and all the way back. Brian Austen, Errol Wright, Curly Pinniger, Jack Jones, Darryl Blunk, Tafon. The early Kirra Surf Riders had big heavy boards which were hard to manoeuvre, we did not have leg ropes so you would have to be a good swimmer, after surfing Kirra point we learnt to fix dings in the afternoon as the rocks were savage on fibre glass. This all lead on to a wonderful time, in our youth at Kirra, and all the adventures and good friends that came out of being a member of the Kirra Surf Riders club. It is wonderful to think 50 years later the same club and its members are all experiencing the same great times that the foundation members started, GOOD ON YOU KIRRA SURF RIDERS,
– Jason Thomas Current President and Club Contest Director for the last three years
I became President this year (2012) of the KSC and it is great to be president of this club. The history of this club is so big at 50 years. I am really proud of these guys as contest director and the history of this club! It’s going to be unreal for the 50th so much history there with world champions and crew that have been there and made the club. To get to 50 years everyone should be proud of Kirra.. The grass roots of surfing is where the kids are and this is where the world champions come from! This will be a great family event.
Mick Fanning ASP World Champion 2007 & 2009
Congrats to the KSC! We have gone through a lot of phases over the years and everyone that has been behind the club past and present has made it what it is! It’s been a blast and yeh just stoked to be a part of it and I’m sure it’s going to keep going on for ever and just keep grooming the young guys.
– Asher Pacey prominent Team member for the last 10 years of Club competition
"I have been Kirra close to 10 years. It’s been a great club to surf for and they really look after their members as far as I know it is one of the oldest clubs in the country. Mate 50 years is a long time and there have been a lot of people come and go through the club and a lot of people have been there for a long time. Personally I am absolutely honoured to be a member of Kirra.
You never want to let your team down to me I don’t normally compete so this is it for me as far as competition! I just love being part of the team, getting down cheering on the other guys, the young grommets coming through and just generally having fun.
There is a big difference between club competition and individual competition, there is a bit more of a team spirit cheering on all your mates and it’s not just about yourself but at the same time you want to put in a good effort so you don’t let anyone down or the club.
I would like to say to Kirra on their 50th a big thanks to all the organisers in the club there is a whole list of names but keep on doing what you are doing and I look forward to many more years myself."
1965 Qld State Titles (L to R) Bob McTavish, Hacka Allan (KSC), Phyliss O'Donnell, Robyn Charlton (KSC), Peter Drouyn, Paul Neilsen, Peter Lascelles. Pic: Mal Sutherland
– MP (Michael Peterson) Kirra’s greatest surfer in the seventies won every pro event in 1974 and won two Australian Titles 1872-74
"I’m 60 this year and Kirra is 50, wow I never thought we’d both make it! Congratulations!"
– PT (Peter Townend) 1976 World Professional Champion was KSC’s club champ in 1973
"Sometimes lost in my history mix are "The Kirra Years" and that I was the club champion in '73, something I'm extremely proud of as on my passport it says born Kirra/Bilinga hospital 1953. Congratulations to the Kirra Surfriders for their 50th anniversary, I won’t be able to make it but will have a few beers to celebrate my Aussie mates and the great occasion."
– Rabbit Bartholomew 1978 World Professional champion
"I joined KSC in 1968; I still have memories of club President Paul Daley presenting me with my first trophy for winning the '68 Cadet Title. Two of my boyhood heroes were in the club, Harry "Hacka" Allen and Graham Black. These guys were phenomenal surfers. Blacky split State Title with Peter Drouyn in 68 & 69 and Hacka was the most naturally talented surfer in Coolangatta. The Gill brothers, Robbie and Kerry, were in the juniors as was the Peterson brothers, Michael & Tommy. It was an amazing time, the shortboard revolution gave rise to the development of Michael Peterson and Peter Townend as world class and the surfboard design breakthroughs at both the Joe Larkin factory and Dick Van Straalen allowed us to start riding deep in the barrell at Kirra point. KSC was pretty much the only club that could take on the might of Wind n Sea Club and there was a classic showdown at Kirra. By the early 70's club contests were more like an Aussie Title, just wall to wall talent and fierce rivalries developed between the original Cooly Kids. Congratulations to KSC membership for reaching this milestone, happy surfing days, a great achievement in the institution of Australian club surfing."