Waipu Cove Surf Life Saving Club has a long and colourful history and exists thanks to the passionate locals from 1928. The vigilance, service and endurance of these young men and women set our club on the road it still follows today.
Brief History of the Waipu Cove Surf Life Saving Club
By, Ian Godfrey – Registrar
Around 1928 with large crowds attending the beach the owner of the Store and Boarding House, Mr Edwin McMillan began patrolling the beach and holding himself available to help any swimmers who got themselves into difficulty.
Soon after McMillan family members and a small group of locals formed a surf club known as the Waipu Life Saving Club and electing Edwin McMillan as the President. Among those associated with the first club were: Edwin E. McMillan, his sons, Charles Edwin (Eb) and Eric his son-in-law, H.O. Bowman, and Robert Harvey, Wilf Cosgrave, Jamie Bowman, Tony Govorko, Dick Mason, Henry Moje and others.
Edwin McMillan purchased the first reel which was paid for from donations following demonstrations by passing the “hat” around the crowds.
The first head quarters of the club were in the hall in the Presidents buildings (now known as the Duck Inn/ Cove Takeaways just opposite the boat ramp) and here the gear was stored during the off seasons. Gradually a permanent team of regular campers and visitors, mostly local men, was formed and under guidance from their President, they took over responsibility for maintaining a regular watch upon the beach.
Following a fire that destroyed the Boarding House in 1936 McMillan built accommodation units across the road however these also met an untimely end after several years and McMillan sold the land to the Council.
The club fully functioned until about 1939 and in that time was responsible for saving several lives from the sea when the outbreak of World War 2 saw numerous young men from the district enlist and serve overseas.
During the war years the safety of the swimmers was catered for by a small band of 18-year-olds, namely Peter and Paul Newberry, Bo Reed, Bob Bunker and Noel Mortimer patrolling the beach. Although the beach has never really been without some sort of supervision, the club as we know it now was reformed in January 1944.
With the service men returning to civilian life after the war the beach again experienced a rejuvenated popularity with many families returning to the beach for day trips or to camp at weekends and over holiday periods. Many of those families included the Beeston’s, Neary’s, Massey’s and Coward’s who were campers at Waipu Cove remained for many decades.
Soon after their return it was realised that with the growing numbers of people attending the beach that a surf patrol was again required to watch over swimmers and assist if any got into difficulty.
A committee was formed (1944) under the chairmanship of Bill Beeston and comprised of Alf Coward, Lee Keane, Keith Provan and Tom Beeston. The club was then named “Waipu Cove Surf Life Saving Club”. Quite a number of others present at the time were later to join and render valuable service to the club.
Around 1945 the first building owned by the club was an old army hut located at the southern end of the Reserve. Here most of the club meetings were held and it housed a reel borrowed from the defunct Mangawhai club. This reel was at a later date reconditioned and returned. The alarm was a piece of railway iron and steel bar that would be sounded for rescues and occasion shark sightings.
In 1950 it was decided to build a new club house and following construction it was opened by D.N. McKay MP, in 1951with an annual subscription of one shilling.
The club house performed well for several seasons, however several severe storms caused significant erosion to the front of the club that required protective abutments to be place with the help of local cartage contractors and the Whangarei District Council one hundred cubic meters of rock was installed as protection.
In 1962 it was found that any new protective works to save the frontage would be far more costly than the value of the club house. It was then the club decided to proceed with plans for a new clubhouse on a site north of the old one.
Voluntary work began in May 1964 and our patron, Mr D.N. McKay, M.P., officially opened the building on October 22nd, 1966. However, even with this new clubhouse with all its facilities, the club had lost many of its members. In the final stages of building there were only 12 senior members who, with the tremendous help of its then President Reg Nicholls and its life members, Bill and Dulcie Beeston, the club grew exceptionally.
The old surf club building was sold back to the Reserve Board for five pounds for use as a hall for the camp. The hall held many church services, dances, movie nights, Bingo evening and was also used as a polling station for Elections until its demise in a storm in the early 80’s.
Around 1993 storage, access and damage to boards, skis, surf boat and IRB’s in the basement was becoming a issue as well as the clubs lease with the Department of Conservation was due for renewal lead to designing extensions to the north of the club house incorporating a full basement and negotiating a new lease with additional land to accommodate the proposed extensions and gaining building consents.
The final design was for a block basement with a clear spanning concrete floor as well as a 3-meter extension along the rear of the club to provide a new kitchen, first aid room, toilets and more accommodation was finally agreed to and work started on securing the additional lease area.
Building work commenced on 8 March 1999 by Malone and Scotland Builders (local building contractors) with funding via grants from Lotteries Trusts, a loan from Whangarei District Council as well as sponsorship of products and materials for the building.
The building extensions were formally opened 4th December 2000 by Craig Brown Mayor of Whangarei. There were many past and present members present including Dulcie Beeston, Peter Brown, Gavin Grant, Dave Woodman, Tim & Chris Frazerhurst Kevin & Mary Shanaghan, Gloria Fleming, Greg Shanaghan, Laurie Bell, Ian Godfrey, Mark Graham, Dr David Ewan and numerous other past members and supporters of the club.
The extensions to the club have proved a great success as the club is being sort after for various functions such as weddings, social occasion’s community events and corporate functions, which assists with well-needed revenue to keep the club running.