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Beach Grit

Tragic: Surf clubs turn to panhandling!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Australia's historic institutions become common rail station beggars!

If you have ever been to Australia then you are at least semi-familiar with the country’s surf lifesaving clubs. I am ill-suited to provide much detail, having never been a member, but I believe they are non-profit, non-governmental associations that provide water safety services, fun classes for kids and flamboyant red + yellow hats. Am I surmising correctly? Is this what they do?

Over the year I spent in Australia I looked on with envy at these surf lifesaving clubs mostly because they each seemed to have the most wonderful clubhouses sitting right on the beach. I imagined inside there was a chummy vibe, cold beer in the summer, room temperature scotch in the winter and fun songs sang in unison. Today, though, the Sydney Morning Herald popped my balloon.

In the featured story it was revealed that surf lifesaving clubs struggle for money, have difficulty maintaining facilities and send members to train stations in order to panhandle like Indians. But there is a man who has a plan to pull the clubs into profitability and let’s read together.

Surf life saving clubs could be turned into small hotels under a proposal to raise more money for lifesaving operations. Barry Tilley would also equip surf clubs with liquor licences to operate bars beyond the limited circumstances in which they currently serve alcohol. A property developer and businessman, Mr Tilley’s preferred model is a pensione, or small hotel, offering “a couple of meals of the day like they do in Italy”.

Mr Tilley said accommodation and dining facilities would help pay for the maintenance of facilities and provision of water safety and training instead of relying on donations.

“There’s nothing more demeaning than seeing surf club members begging around railway stations,” he said. “It would create a new industry in so far as people learning lifesaving around the world,” he added. “Australia is the leader when it comes to lifesaving.”

Fantastic, right? I would love to stay in one, sharing the chummy vibes without really “belonging” but apparently things are not so simple. Turning the clubs into hotels and bars is prohibited by Australian law.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Lands, Forestry and Racing, Paul Toole, said: “Crown land utilised by surf life saving clubs is generally reserved for public recreation purposes and the establishment of bars and accommodation on such Crown land would not be in keeping with the reserve purpose.”

Well son of a bitch. And wouldn’t you think now is a good time to rebel against the crown? I would come fight for you, dear Australia. I would come fight for your nippers and your cold beer and your room temperature scotch. Let’s do this thing.