Hurry and join before they're vanished!
I’m not typically a “joiner” in the traditional sense of the word, but being part of a surf club has always seemed a wonderful dream. Wearing cool sweaters or windbreakers, earning and using funny nicknames, being a lout, drinking canned bear on ol’ Ms. Havisham’s lawn then running away from Johnny Law when he comes hollering, stealing that bastard other surf club’s mascot, painting it in our club’s colors then leaving it in the town square, etc.
To be honest, I’m not really sure what surf clubs do but am saddened that they are going extinct in California and would you mind coming with me to The Orange County Register briefly? Could you read out loud for both of us?
Surf clubs used to be a way for families to spend weekends together, a chance for the kids not only to compete but to learn lessons about giving back to the community. Many of the longtime members are parents, some of whom don’t surf, who have stuck around long after their kids have gone off to college.
But the parents of many of today’s youths just want them to compete, without the labor of being a volunteer with the club, Gale said. They become “club hoppers,” only joining clubs where the kids have more chance of competing or standing out for sponsors.
So what’s missing are the volunteers who put the contests together, the people who show up for meetings, and the helpers who come out for the beach cleanups after the storms and get their hands dirty.
“The Coalition are mom-and-pop charity organizations, we are all nonprofit,” Gale said. “No one in the coalition gets paid. It’s all volunteer work. This understanding of what formed this stepping stone, they aren’t familiar with it.”
The Doheny Longboard Surfing Association, which has been around since 1988, usually has about 150 to 200 members. This year? About 40.
“What are we going to do to save this to make a positive impact on our community?” Gale asked. “It’s a constant strain.”
Some clubs are getting creative by adding activities outside of surf events, such as bowling leagues or miniature golf tournaments — extra incentives to encourage members to participate, mingle and have fun.
The Doheny club will gather Friday, April 19, to talk about dwindling membership and how to revitalize the club so it doesn’t vanish — so they can continue with the legacy of events, such as the Gathering of the Tribes.
“My hope is that we don’t have another galvanizing event that causes these surf clubs to form, such as beach cleanups and water-quality issues,” Gale said. “But now that the storm has gone by and we’re all having fun, the people thinking about getting involved will realize that there’s a lot more than just a surf contest that will put a smile on your face. You can join these clubs, make a difference in your community, and surf.”
So I don’t know about the smile on my face, making a difference in my community or surfing and these club-hopping soccer parents seem extra lame but… maybe it’s time for me to give surf club membership a real crack.
Do you belong to one? Can I join yours? What are our colors?