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CURRUMBIN BEACH VIKINGS - CELEBRATING 90 YEARS OF SURF LIFESAVING

Posted on Thursday, November 25, 2010

November 24: The Currumbin Beach Vikings SLSC holds a unique place in the history of Australian Surf Life Saving with its precarious positioning on "Elephant Rock" - a club formed in 1919 with a small shack positioned on the northern side of the rock formation. Now some 90 years on the premier club in Point Danger Branch, has proudly survived storm and tempest to serve the southern Gold Coast community. The club now stands like a colossus, often pounded by storm surf, but its uniqueness makes it one of the best outlooks of any club on the coast and one of the strongest. Currumbin has produced some of Australia's finest surf lifesavers who have patrolled continuously every year for the past nine decades, risking their lives and braving treacherous conditions to save others. This weekend, Currumbin will "Welcome The Vikings Home" with three days of celebrations for its 90th Anniversary. It will begin with a golf day at Tweed Heads-Coolangatta Golf Course and a welcome Cocktail Party at the surf club on Friday November 26. The Currumbin RSL will then host the "Green and White Vikings Ball" on Saturday November 27 for 250 past and present members before a Picnic by Currumbin Creek for the entire club on Sunday November 28. "We are looking forward to what will be three fabulous days of reminiscing and celebration for a club that has meant so much to so many people over the last nine decades," said Currumbin president Col Dutton. "The club is extremely proud of its achievements over the years; we have produced some of Australia's finest lifesavers who continue to patrol the beach every weekend and we look forward to seeing many old faces at our Anniversary weekend, many who have played a special part in our history. "Our hard working Anniversary Committee has put a lot of work into making this weekend happen and I'm sure their efforts will be greatly rewarded over a weekend we are all looking forward to." THE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS OF 1919 The thriving club of 2010 is a far cry from the early years which saw Currumbin officially formed in 1919 after a recommendation from Fielding Chippendale to some young locals to form a surf club after he placed a box with a line and belt on the beach. Chippendale had witnessed the drowning death of his daughter off Currumbin Rock and was inspired to ensure the safety of anyone who swam there. Among those early young members was Peter Mitchell, Currumbin's first club captain and instructor after being awarded his bronze medallion on the 11th of January 1920. Money and members were scarce in the early days until the Vikings Swimming Club from Ipswich merged with the Surf Club to resuscitate the ailing Currumbin and it became the Currumbin Beach Vikings, as it is known today. This occurred in the 1930's around the same time that the club relocated to Elephant Rock - a momentus occasion. Through the War years the club struggled and hard-working member Dick Lucas would drive members from Ipswich down to Currumbin in his old truck. Immediately after World War II saw the emergence of a group of champion swimmers led by Marshall Kropp, John Neumann and Les Sawtell and a strong era of competition was born. Their presence in Branch and Queensland State teams produced great belt swimmers, surf teams and R and R squads who were among the best in Australia. RABJOHNS LEADS CURRUMBIN TO GOLDEN ERA Currumbin is a name synonymous with success and countless Queensland and National champions and some of Australia's greatest lifesavers and Olympians grace the walls of the Vikings, a club crowned Australian champions in 1977, 1998 and 1999. The mid to late 60s and early 70s saw the emergence of the club's glory years in competition.  Champion waterman and life member Norm Rabjohns led the Vikings charge, winning back-to-back Australian ironman titles in 1971 and 1972, the same year he won the single ski. He led a group of some of Australia's finest craft competitors who dominated this era, highlighted by the three consecutive Australian Taplin Relay wins in 1976, 1977 and 1978. VIKINGS FAB 15 TRIUMPH IN BANCOORA Rabjohns and legendary board paddler Dick Cahill were in all three teams, as was Olympic swimmer and 1500m world record holder at the time, Steve Holland. Cahill would end his career with a staggering 10 Aussie gold medals. The Vikings capped this era with it's first ever Australian Champion Club pointscore win in 1977 at Victoria's infamous Bancoora Beach, braving the freezing conditions with a team of only 15 competitors. Currumbin was the toast of the coast - the first Queensland club to win the coveted Australian points score.  The Vikings were led throughout this era by long term president, the late and great, Marshall Kropp - who's grandchildren Jackson and Riley Maynard carry on his legacy today with father Chris Maynard, one of the legends of the sport and now a member of  the club's respected coaching staff. Holland also turned his hand to ironman racing and became a stalwart of the Currumbin Vikings golden era, a time when Olympians dominated the sport. The Vikings were not short on Olympians with gold medallists from 1984 Jon Sieben and 1988 Duncan Armstrong and 1984 Olympic bronze medallist Justin Lemberg swapping the famous AUS swim cap for the equally famous green and white quartered Currumbin Vikings surf cap - in surf lifesaving circles anyway. Another Olympian, Sydney 2000 Olympic relay golden medallist Ashley Callus was also a graduate of the Currumbin Juniors, while Athens 2000 Olympic gold and silver medallist Brooke Hanson also linked up with the Vikings after stints with Freshwater and Torquay. RECORD 14 AUSTRALIAN PATROL COMPETITIONS The club's record to win 14 Australian Patrol Competitions - 10 of them consecutively between 1992 and 2001 is testament to the quality of surf lifesaver who have worn the famous green and white quartered caps. As far as families go the Cahill family led by Dick, his two sons Steve and Ben; Dick's brother Mick and his daughters Dana and Hayley amassed 29 Australian gold medals. During this golden era of the club, Trent Balym, who has been the SLSA posterboy for so many years with his image of carrying a patient from the water splashed all over Australia, would also win five consecutive Champion Lifesaver titles and together with Peter Dawes they would each gather 11 Australian gold medals. It was Life Member Jeff Foreman who would inspire a group of men and women who would become some of the unsung heroes of Australian surf lifesaving. Through the 1998 and 1999 seasons the Vikings would win countless medals at Queensland and Australian Championships from every form of competition - from lifesaving to boats, to board riding and beach sprints to board and ski paddling and ironman to add their second and third Australian Club pointscores. The club's strength showed in Currumbin winning gold in the open men's, under 18 and under 16 Australian beach sprint championships with Travis Quennell, Brett Robinson and Adam Atkins all breasting the tape to create history in 1998. BOATIES WIN AUSSIE TITLES 51 YEARS APART Surfboats also featured strongly in this era with legendary sweep, Lod Leggett, who arrived from Bondi, guiding the club to its first Australian Championship with the 1947 junior title at Southport with the crew of Arthur Renton, Robert Kemp, Jack Kemp and Graham Binnie. They rowed in the "Les Pearce" a boat named after local Currumbin publican and with money raised at his hotel and a boat built on Leggett's specifications. It was the year Queensland hosted its first "Aussies" and even back then the State's cyclone season created havoc, forcing organisers to move the Championships to Coolangatta. Binnie is the only surviving member of the historic crew and is also the club's oldest surviving Australian champion. The Vikings didn't taste "Aussies" victory in the boat area for another 51 years when Matt Wildman swept his under 21s crew of Joey Fraser, Rob Apanui, Scott Ferguson and Ash Rainger conquered the Kurrawa break to break the drought. These days Currumbin is one of the best club's on the coast when it comes to surf boat supremacy with its "Barbarian" crew swept by Lyle Clark, one of the most feared crews in the country. The Vikings now field teams in every division from under 19s and women to A grade and Masters and are looking toward another successful season under the direction of boat captain Mark "Mo" Owens. Currumbin continues to thrive at "Elephant Rock" as all sections of the Currumbin club and under the direction of president Col Dutton and recently elected Life Members, club captain Mark Goodwin and chief instructor and treasurer Les Brodie, the Vikings are well prepared for another decade of safe surfing at Currumbin - their little slice of paradise on the southern Gold Coast. Kurt Hanson who joined Currumbin in 1998, summed up the feelings of anyone who has been a Viking when he penned this ode. "When we forget our past...only then do memories die...So this dream today we promise to forever keep alive." Thank you to Ian Hanson from Hanson Media Group, who has put together this wonderful piece on the History of the Club going back to the origins of the Club in 1919. The article is a great lead in to the start of the 90th Anniversary celebrations kick-starting with tomorrows Golf Day and Cocktail Party.

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