KSC’s Golden Anniversary & Quotes From KSC Legends

Mick Fanning at Kirra January 2011. Photo by Simon Muirhead.


Written by Andrew McKinnon

Queensland’s first surfboard riding club, the Kirra Surfriders (KSC) will be celebrating their 50th anniversary with a huge reunion party on top of Kirra Hill at the Community Cultural Centre (formerly Coolangatta State School), Garrick St., this Saturday 28th of January from 2.30 pm until 8pm.

A special feathered friend from Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary resembling the Club’s mascot (sea eagle) will launch ceremonies including talks from past Presidents, women members and the KSC’s very own 2 times World Champion Mick Fanning.

Parking will be at a premium and organizers have suggested parking on either side of the Kirra Hill e.g. behind the Coolangatta Post office or alternately next to the Kirra Surf lifesaving Club then walk up the hill. Security will be provided at the venue with access to the east side of the Cultural Centre. Admittance is $10.00 a ticket which can be purchased at the Kirra Surf Lifesaving Club until Friday 27th January. Drinks and meals will be provided at additional cost.

Live Bands comprising of former KSC members will provide plenty of good old rock and roll throughout the afternoon, plus movies and photos of the KSC’s history, a mechanical surfboard for the grommets and a raffle for winning a $5,500 Aus trip to the Mentawai’s thanks to Perfect Wave will be 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 the late Bill Stafford Senior and John Charlton senior for guiding the club. Their 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.

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.

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 said, “Kirra isn’t just a surfriding club but an organization 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.

Their annual Kirra Teams event now sponsored by Volcom in 2012 with as many as 40 clubs will be another huge event in February and following on the KSC team will be vying for the Jim Beam National Surf Tag titles at North Wall Ballina. John Robin has been the driving force behind the 28th Kirra Teams event.

Jenny Sheenan who is the undisputed matriarch of the Kirra Surfriders is asking everyone to bring their picnic blanket, a spare brollie and camping chair as the 50th reunion party will be outside on a grassy courtyard area and as Jenny says” It will be like a big backyard BBQ and a fun afternoon for everyone to celebrate the clubs anniversary and reminiscing with mates about all the good times!”

Quotes from legendary KSC Members

KSC’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 layabouts.

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 yeah 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.

MP (Michael Peterson), Kirra’s greatest surfer in the seventies who won every Pro event in 1974 and won two Australian Titles 1972-74

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 and 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 legends beers to celebrate my Aussie mates and the great occasion.

Wayne ‘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.

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