A Rich History

In 1997 Northcliffe SLSC commissioned local historian Alexander McRobbie to write the history of the Club as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.
Some of the following details are extracts from the book "Guardians of the Beach - The History of the Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club 1947-1997".

In The Begining 1947 - 1957

The name Northcliffe came from an estate developed by Brisbane Real Estate agents Thornton and Pearce in 1917. It was named after an English press baron - Lord Northcliffe, the father of modern journalism, whose London Daily Mail revolutionized the way newspapers were presented. On the 1st February 1947 six young men formally founded the Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club. They were John Hurd, who became the first President; Keith Smythe, who was the first Secretary, and Pat Anderson who was the first Captain.

The other foundation members were Bob McDonald, Colin Bryant and Brian Sockhill. Anderson, McDonald, Smythe and Sockhill were members of the Broadbeach Surf Life Saving Club. There was over a mile of beach between Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach and Keith Smythe and his Broadbeach clubmates saw a real need for a Club in the area between these two clubs. Keith took the idea to the Southport Town Council and also the State Surf Life Saving Centre and received their support and permission to set up a beach patrol and the nucleus of a Surf Life Saving Club.

Keith Smythe and Bob McDonald approached the Southport Town Council for assistance in gaining a building for a clubhouse. Council had an ex-army hut that was standing on the dune line close to the road, not far from Aubrey St which they moved to the Aubrey St site. The hut was quite large. On the end facing the sea there was a balcony that gave a good view across the dunes and out to sea. The hut was partitioned into two sections, one being the sleeping quarters, which had 12 bunks that had wooden slats for bases and weren't very comfortable. The hut was to give good service as a clubhouse for nearly 10 years. It was 1956 - the end of the club's first decade - before a two story fibro and timber clubhouse was built to replace the old army hut.

Hazards and Hope 1957 - 1967

The Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club's second 10 years was one of the most exciting periods in Gold Coast history. The decade saw the beginning of the end of the old South Coast when the supremacy of long established towns like Southport and Coolangatta was challenged by the upstart resort area running from Surfers Paradise to Broadbeach. In 1958 and 1959 on the Gold Coast there were two nationally publicized shark attacks, one fatal and one near fatal. On November 23rd 1958 at Surfers Paradise a visitor was mauled about 250 yards offshore. The Surfers Paradise life savers on duty made heroic efforts to save the stricken swimmer who unfortunately died from massive injuries. On November 22nd 1959, almost a year to the day there was another shark attack, this time at Northcliffe. The victim was a new club member, Geoff Sachse, who was taking part in a club race. Before help reached him he was bitten on both legs and arms as he tried to fend off the marauding shark. The club members who went to Geoff's aid were Brian Guilfoyle, Tom Savage, Brian Dawson, Marcus Shaw, Errol Iselin, Neil Iselin, Neville Hyde, Gordon Farmer, Bill Hutchinson, John Braidwood, Llyod Reilly and Fred Duck. Later, all were awarded the SLSA Certificate of Merit with Bronze insert, and the Royal Humane Society' s Certificate of Merit. Geoff Saches survived his injuries, but the experience didn't put him off the surf. Four years later he gained his Bronze with Northcliffe.

In 1958 Northcliffe member Don Mckinney developed a prototype mass rescue ski which supported the reel, line and belt as a valuable rescue tool on patrol. Northcliffe had the first ski and soon afterwards a ski was given to every club. The club's second decade saw the beginning of Northcliffe's successes in competition with wins at state level in the surf races, boat races, single and double skis.

Life Members:

  • 1966 - Brian Guilfoyle

Becoming Nationally Known 1967 - 1977

The Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club's third 10 years were packed with considerable drama. It began with massive erosion that gouged away many of the Gold Coast's beaches including the foundations of the newly built Garfield Tower next door to the Northcliffe clubhouse. After the crisis was over, Council began constructing a rock wall behind the foreshore dunes along the length of the Gold Coast. Geoff Jensen gained Northcliffe's first Australian Championship when he won the Open Beach Flags at Elouera Beach in 1968. From this time on Mick Cahill, Dick Cahill, Norm Lewis and Max Christmas carved out a name for themselves and Northcliffe as a premier Board paddling club with a string of state and national placings.

It was also during this decade that one of Northcliffe's most influential families joined the club - the Kolkka's. Mum and dad - Norma and Allan and three sons Bruce, Noel and Ross became stalwarts at the club both in administration and competition. The Northcliffe nippers were formed on the 17th December 1966 when Labrador State School teacher Peter Fitzpatrick joined up 12 of his pupils. Other members who assisted the nippers in the early years were Allan Kolkka and Don Sexty. On the 5th November 1975 the clubhouse was destroyed by fire along with club photos and records. A building committee had been formed two years earlier and construction was under way on a new building at the new site of Thornton St. The club was without a building for two months while the new building was being finished. On the 28th December 1975 the new clubhouse was officially opened by Patron Bruce Gadsden.

Life Members:

  • 1972 - Norm Lewis
  • 1977 - Terry Fitzpatrick

Change and Controversy 1977 - 1987

Northcliffe's fourth decade saw technological advances that dramatically changed life saving methods namely the introduction of the Inflatable Rescue Boat and the UHF Radio network. During the 1976/77 season the need became apparent for a radio communications system to connect life saver patrols along the Gold Coast. The radios enabled Northcliffe members to offer and receive assistance from the neighboring Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach Clubs. In March 1979 Northcliffe got its first Inflatable Rescue Boat and Ean Roff was elected as the Club's first IRB Captain.

The introduction of the IRB enabled Northcliffe members to get to stranded swimmers with never before achievable speed and efficiency. April 1981 was a black period in the Club's history when Northcliffe was suspended from competition due to patrol beaches. The suspension was only short lived however the damage inflicted was severe with membership dropping to only 12 active senior members at one point. At the end of the fourth decade the Clubs resilience was evident with a membership of 653. Within two years there was a remarkable turnaround. In the 1984/85 season Northcliffe won the inaugural South Coast Branch Champion Club Award. The result was on a points scoring system based on patrol work, first aid, IRB handling and radio efficiency. In competition the fourth decade belonged to the Club's giant killers Bruce Kolkka, Noel Kolkka, Robbie Nay and Billy Eckstein.

A string of state and national titles in the long board and malibu board disciplines carried on the board paddling tradition of their elder fellow members. Surf Life Saving Masters competition began in 1983 with the inaugural Australian Masters championships at Cottesloe Western Australia. Northcliffe competitors entered the Masters competition in 1984 and have remained a dominant force ever since. In 1987 Jacki Dann became the first Northcliffe Surf Girl to win the Miss Surf Girl Quest winning an IRB for the Club.

Life Members:

  • 1978 - Russell Trueman
  • 1979 - Bruce Gadsden
  • 1981 - Allan Kolkka
  • 1984 - Graham Harrison
  • 1984 - Robert Ean Roff
  • 1984 - Norma Kolkka

Expansion and Record Membership 1987 - 1997

The fifth decade was one of great expansion and change for the Club. Major development was achievable through fund raising resulting from the Northcliffe Sportsman's Luncheon and the formation of the Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Supporters Association Inc. The now famous Northcliffe Sportsman's Luncheon commenced in 1988 and was organized by local businessman Terry Jackman (who took over as patron in 1996 after the untimely death of Bruce Gadsden). The first luncheon had 90 guests which grew annually to a sell-out crowd of 400 in the mid 90's.

In September 1991 Mike Deane became the inaugural President of the Northcliffe SLSSA Inc. 62 people became Foundation Members of the Supporters Club raising $31,000 which went towards clubhouse refurbishments including a bar and lounge area. The fund raising machine of the late 80's helped Northcliffe Surf Girl Angie Greenwood not only win the Miss Surf Girl Crown but also the Charity Queen as well.

Competition in the fifth decade was a time of great success. Names such as Mark Williams, Craig Hackett, Brad Stokes and Hayden Reece spearheaded the club to national and international prominence. At the 1992 World Titles held in Japan, Northcliffe finished second. Competitors in the rescue and resuscitation events also came to prominence in the fifth decade with 6 national titles won between 1989 and 1998. On December 21st 1996 Mayor Ray Stevens opened further renovations to the clubhouse. These refurbishments further enhanced the life saving areas and the licensed facilities. Membership to Northcliffe soared to over 1200 which included an annual average of 300 nippers and 200 patrolling members.

In the first 50 years at the Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club rescue numbers were not recorded, however the proud record of no lives lost between the flags remained intact throughout. 934 members successfully completed their bronze medallion and 36 Australian Championships were won.

Life Members:

  • 1988 - Eric Shepherd
  • 1990 - Ross Kolkka
  • 1992 - Bruce Kolkka
  • 1993 - John Holmes
  • 1996 - Mike Deane

Becoming the Premiere Surf Sports Club 1997 - 2007

Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club has continued to gain momentum in the years since the 50th Anniversary of the Club?s foundation (1947-1997). Entering the Golden Era from 1997 to 2006.

In 1998 Fiona Nay (a third generation Australian Champion) after raising $46,500 became the Club's third Miss Summer Surf Girl winner.

A stable Executive Committee over the next ten years provided positive management to this decade.

1997-98 Northcliffe decided the Club wanted No1 in all areas from patrols to competitive Surf Sports. Professional Coaching was the way to go. The Dowker Brothers, Brett and Ty, laid the foundation on which Northcliffe was to build competitive teams. Open Patrol Competition first in 2003 at Kurrawa Australian Championships.
Super Coach Pat O'Keeffe came on board in 2003-04 and the dream of being the Number 1 Club in Australia became a reality winning the Australian Champion Club Title from 2004 -2007. Quality competitors were attracted by top quality coaches.

Northcliffe has gone from our first gold medal at an Australian Championship in 1968 (Geoff Jensen, Beach Flags) to winning 27 gold medal events, nine silver and eight bronze for a total of sixty eight gold medals by the competitors.

In 2004, the club introduced the BMD Northcliffe Hall of Fame honouring those that achieved remarkable things in the area of Surf Sports. Inaugural Inductees were Bruce Kolkka, Mark Williams, Norm Lewis, & Hayley Bateup. Further additions were made in the following years -

2005 - Steve McBean & The R & R Team
2006  - Stephen Fry & The Patrol Competition Team
2007 - Nick Crilly & Kristy Harris

In the Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Series, Northcliffe had great success with Kristy Harris taking out the series in 2005, 2006 & 2007 and Shannon Eckstein taking out the Men's series in 2006 & 2007.

Three major building extensions to the Surf Club and Supporters Club have been covered out at a cost exceeding $3,000,000 which included fully air-conditioned Supporters and Surf Club. Providing top quality facilities for members of both clubs has seen unprecedented growth in memberships.

In 2006 memberships in both the Surf Club & Supporters club has grown to record numbers. Surf Club 1110 comprising 682 males and 428 females with the Supporters Club total of 6802.

The patrols on the beach have been changed from two patrolling periods per day to three and has proved to be popular with patrolling members and eighteen patrols and thirty six patrol captains.

In 2007, long time major sponsor of the Club, BMD, through Mick Power, signed a naming rights sponsorship deal, the first surf club in Australia to do so. The Clubs name now became BMD Northcliffe Surf Club. 

Life Members:

  • 1998 - Peter MacPherson
  • 1999 - Ray Jones
  • 2000 - Harold Phipps
  • 2001 - Noel Kolkka
  • 2002 - Claude Jeanneret
  • 2003 - Keith Williams
  • 2004 - David & Helen Irvine
  • 2005 - David Shields & Terry Jackman
  • 2006 - Scott Bradford & John Gorely
  • 2007 - John Gorely

    2007 - present

    Despite the Australians Championships heading West to Perth for 3 years, and the logistics and costs incurred, BMD Northcliffe still remained Australian Champion Club.

    In 2008 the club added their first World Interclub Championship to the Trophy cabinet also taking out the World Ocean Pointscore in Germany.

    In the Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Series BMD Northcliffe continued to dominate with Zane Holmes & Elizabeth Pluimers taking out the overall series titles in 2008. Shannon Eckstein regained the title in 2009, 2010 & 2011. Courtney Hancock claimed her first Series Title in 2011.

    Pat O'Keeffe resigned as Head Coach in 2010 leaving former Uncle Toby's Ironman great, Barry Newman, to take over the role. The success still continued, with the club having their best ever Australian Championships in 2011 winning by a record margin.

    Continuing on with our success in the Summer Surf Girl Competition, BMD Northcliffe entrant, Emma Rynne, took out "Miss Personality" title in 2007.

    Our Life Saving Committee and Trainers have ensured that we have first class life savers on the beach by delivering professional training courses second to none.

    In 2011, our Nippers had their most successful year in history winning both the South Coast Branch and QLD Championships for the first time ensuring we have even more growth coming up in to the senior ranks in the future.

    In 2011, another building extension is underway heading out over the top of the car park increasing the TAB and Bar area and refurbishing the facility throughout.

     Hall of Fame Inductees:

    • 2008 Pat O'Keeffe
    • 2009 Simon Harris & Tate Smith
    • 2010 Elizabeth Pluimers
    • 2011 Shannon Eckstein

    Life Members:

    • 2008 - Stephen Fry
    • 2009 - Chris Harris
    • 2010 - Tim Burgess
    • 2011 - Karyn Wood

      • Reference: 'Guardians of the Beach - The History of the Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club 1947-1997' Alexander McRobbie, Published June 1997.
      • Reference: Brian Parker General Manager - Northcliffe SLSC Inc./ Northcliffe SLSSA Inc.

      Cnr Garfield Terrace & Thornton Street,
      Surfers Paradise, Queensland 4217
      Telephone: (07)5539 8091
      Facsimile: (07) 5531 7071

      location map

      Postal Address:
      BMD Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club
      Po Box 980, Surfers Paradise,
      Queensland 4217,



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