Surf Club and beach safety

_without prejudice"

This portion of Riversdale Beach Surf Club history is not the official  history and is incomplete, but the history as Basil recorded it and applicable material.

Photo above : Basil seated fourth from left surrounded by his friends in an effort to get the Riversdale Beach Surf Club started.

Basil  stated on tape that getting the Surf Club established was another huge headache not unlike the Golf Club. There was no support from the Masterton County Council, so financially it fell on Basil gifting a section and providing the finance to build a club house.

Many young members didn’t have vehicles so Basil would organise transport for them each weekend. To encourage membership he installed a full size snooker table in his basement and this became a regular hang out for them and their friends. Phil and daughter Barbara provided hundreds of meals over a period of many years. 

This was another facility that Basil realised was a necessity if the beach was to go ahead. A drowning would certainly bring unwanted bad publicity in an area of  sheep farmers who traditionally were not strong swimmers.  Basil donated land, and poured thousand of dollars into the project. 

Because the resort struggled in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s   it was difficult to find recruits for the Surf Club. The Bodle family were all good swimmers and much of the surf club organization such as surf carnivals was left to Basil’s oldest son Brian who was a Wairarapa swim champion like his father.

Wayne Snowsill, one of the original members

Daughter Barbara was also involved with the Surf Club especially participating in surf club carnivals.

Bernard (Midget) Farrely  the then current world surf board  champion wearing Gary's diving suit  NZ water temperature a real shock after Sydney & Hawaii.

Photo above: from left to right, Garry Snowsill, Peter McKenzie, John Hall, Bernie Wilton.

The two photos above are Gary Bodle riding the waves. Gary had the agency for Denice Quain surfboards for the Wairarapa . He sold surfboards to Hansell's NZ Ltd,  Tatton's garage, Vance Vivians  and other companies where they  had advertising printed on the boards donated them to the surf club for rescue and pleasure for surf club members.

An added problem for Basil were the periods  during January when members went back to work after weekends and when the summer holiday period was over. There were still hundreds of campers/holidaymakers  swimming in the surf and often large school groups either on day trips or staying in the then YMCA camp. In the 1960's  Brian, his eldest son who  was an important member of the Surf Club, was  involved in operating a farm at Gladstone outside Masterton  and was rarely  available for patrolling the beach outside his holiday periods. He  was heavily involved with organising surf carnivals and participating in them as a champion belt man. In the 1970's Brian was involved with farming at Riversdale Station thus he had limited time for beach patrolling.  The patrolling of the beach  was left up to Basil and his youngest son Gary whilst there were no Surf Club members active. During the many weeks over several years the Bodle’s patrolled the beach and there were no rescues. Basil put that down to careful placing of the flags and erecting signs where dangerous holes and  channels were located. Also, the dozens of  lectures to school groups about water safety in the surf.

The Surf Club struggled for years and membership declined. Basil thought it was due to the growing popularity of surf boards, he said on tape: 

“ Who would want to patrol the beach when you could be out on a surf board having fun?”

The Club went into recess for many years, this was a difficult time as virtually thousands of people still swam and surfed. Keith Clapp , pictured left,  a real estate agent from Upper Hutt and his family used the Club as a holiday home and in turn helped Basil  patrol the beach. Whilst they were not at the beach it fell back to Basil & Gary. Referring to Basil's notes and evidence of his desperation he had to bribe one person to become Club Captain  of the Surf club by paying him in excess of $20,000. on today's basis, also a new Holden car to take on the Club Captain of the Golf Club.   

Photo above Stan Lane from Masterton who assisted  Keith with many hours patrolling the beach whilst the surf club was in recess. He also supported the club with transporting members to surf carnivals. 

Basil in his recordings stated, "That it is a shame how some glory seekers in a Club whether it be the Surf or Golf Club, want so much recognition for so little and yet behind the scenes some slave away  for years  giving much more with no recognition, and these unrecognized slaves" he said “rarely see their names in the Club minutes of any meetings or their names on plaques or newspaper clippings  on Club House walls.” 

Later in the beach's history there were several rescues. Gary Bodle was involved with three rescues  when he was operating the store and camping ground after the Surf Club was operational but unmanned. Two of these were drownings, and another where he rescued four children. He received a order of merit for his bravery.

It becomes evident that there are two facets of the Surf Club history when talking to the locals  and ex members for that early periond in the beach's history. First, that of organised Surf Club patrolling of the beach through limited periods of the summer season along with spectacular carnival events, at  and away from the beach, all of which is well documented by photos and minutes of meetings. This is well displayed in the present Surf Club building.

Second, the many volunteers that were unrecorded who put countless hours into patrolling, giving lectures to school groups on water safety, rescues, and placing warning signs on the beach. This effort went on for many years when surf club members went back to work or non attendance on weekends. On interviewing Gary, he stated Basil  had  calculated that the many years the  Surf Club was in recess and the long period it took to get started again, the Bodle's (Basil & Gary) put more hours into beach patrol and safety than all the hours of members patrolling the beach for a decade during that time. Gary said that the problem was that members who had jobs would have limited holidays when they could patrol the beach, but needed to go back to work early January. This left weeks of patrolling each season where there were no members. This was never recognised, in fact in Gary's opinion, downplayed by the same discrediting jealous undercurrent  Basil and Gary had to put up with for most of the beach's history.

Gary pointed out that the Surf Club today is a enormous success especially with the efforts of Michael Taylor and members under his influence. Joe and Trish Taylor, Micheal's Parents were great supporters of Basil & Phil from the beginning of the resort. Joe was a founding member of the Surf Club.

Next Page : Golf Links.