In the summer of ’69 only days after arriving in Australia by boat from Bedfordshire, England, David Reynolds raced his dad around a swim can off Port Noarlunga.
The local swimming coach just happened to see them, and so impressed with David’s swimming ability he approached them. Before David could get too many words out, the coach said: “Good heavens, I’ve never known a Pom to swim so fast.”
It was socially acceptable to say that in those days; an Aussie backhanded compliment, but whatever it ultimately became a defining moment in David’s life – and remarkably a link the construction of the Goolwa Surf Lifesaving Club’s magnificent new $4.2 million facility due to be opened in coming months.
This hasn’t been simply about making a home for a surf lifesaving club in desperate need of one, but another stage in the building of a community.
An information night for the public was scheduled for Thursday, May 2, but the complete story of how this all came together, the enormity of the challenge and remarkable faith and commitment by so many could not be encapsulated in just a few speeches selling the message the fundraising machine hasn’t been turned off.
“This is just the beginning,” David, the club’s captain and co-creator said. “We still have to pay off a $300,000 loan.”
It was fate having that swimming race with his dear dad that led to the swimming coach encouraging David to join the local surf lifesaving club. Through this he forged mateships with around his age, and they remain indelible. “That’s how close lifesaving is,” David said.
Maurie Perry was among them, and while they originally got tied up in the Port Elliot SLS Club, for 30 years they had always come to Goolwa Beach and knew how treacherous it could be for swimmers.
“One night in 2009 we sat around the kitchen table in Maurie’s place and we said something needed to be done,” David said. “We got together and approached the council (Alexandrina) through Frank Tuckwell, who was very supportive.
“We got a petition going to start a surf lifesaving club in Goolwa, and it seemed like everyone in the town signed – it was overwhelming.
“The other initial members who got this going were John Hurst, a business person in Goolwa who was also tied up in Christies Beach SLSC many years ago, and a local policeman, David Couzins.
“We met council and its elected members at the time who gave it full support to push forward. We approached Shane Daw and Elaine Farmer at Surf Life Saving SA and away we went.
“In our first season in 2011 we started in a little hut, and progressed with a shed thanks to the local CWA ladies who donated one. We didn’t know ourselves, and we haven’t forgotten them. Later, the state government and council donated the tower. We were given a 4WD or ATV Buddy from SLSSA, while the Lions and Rotary clubs went $5000 each for a Land Cruiser.
“We were very grateful for all this; it was amazing support. We patrolled the whole beach with about 20 people every weekend through the summer for the first five years. We each did 100 hours per season, just sitting on the beach.
“We started off as a service because we weren’t allowed to be a club. We had to jump through a few hoops before they would fully affiliate us, and to become the fastest growing club in SA the past three years – we have 250 members now – and be named Club of the Year 2017 is a proud achievement that can be shared by the whole town.
“In the background we were always working on building clubrooms. The state government told us we would need to wait our turn to get funding as part of a state-wide program for all surf lifesaving clubs, and we were 19th on the list.
“With a lot of lobbying – I mean a lot – we were able to get to the top fairly quickly, and the government also put in money for Chiton Rocks’ new facility and for the Port Elliot club which will start rebuilding in June. It has been a great thing for our beaches and the community right along the southern coast.”
The crunch in Goolwa’s push was telling the state association Goolwa Beach had the same hazard rating as Sydney’s Bondi Beach so it was must. There was no argument.
The process was arduous. Community was engaged because the site was road reserve; the title had to be changed. Approvals were needed from organisations like Coastal Protection and Dune Care, the Crown and especially our custodians the Ngarrindjeri people, who were marvellous. The support from the Mayor Keith Parkes and his predecessor Kym McHugh remains unrelenting.
As with all government-funded projects, the Goolwa SLSC also had to raise funds – 11 per cent of the overall cost, or about $460K. For the record, the building will be handed over to the Alexandrina Council.
From day one of the club being formed there was this vision of clubrooms. Members stood by the carpark entrance in the heat for hours rattling tins for donations. They had countless sausage sizzles (onions on top) around the town, and Maurie sat in the main street and in shopping centres shaking his own special tin.
Yet, surprisingly, the Goolwa SLSC has had only one drive of asking the community to donate money, and that was in 2011. David said he has been conscious of not hitting the community too hard, but that is changing as a result of this May 2 information night.
Club foundation members will have their name placed on an honourboard permanently in the foyer. The loan needs to be repaid; the building needs furniture, and equipment is among the priorities. The maintenance program for the next 10 years is expected to exceed $200K.
When the building is officially opened in the coming months David will obviously feel proud, but he said this has never been about him, only the township of Goolwa and surf lifesaving. It’s been a family passion, especially with his son Aaron and daughter Courtney inheriting the swimming prowess of once a fast Englishman.
David and his wife Leanne have poured more than $350K back into the community through their business – they have Foodland Goolwa and Veg Out in Victor Harbor – and it has been an amazing joint effort into surf lifesaving. Again, they have always seen what the community and surf lifesaving has done for them.
As David said, this great moment in the short history of the GSLSC is not about him but the community. It is why he insisted as much work as possible be sourced locally, and places like Goolwa Kitchens and Wardrobes, PJ Electrical Solar, Goolwa Steel Fabrication & Supply, South Coast Sand & Civil, Coorong Concrete and Great Southern Security help make up 80% of the workforce.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it has been a town who has urtured this surf lifesaving club.
If that swim coach at Noarlunga all those years ago hadn’t spotted David he probably wouldn’t have got into surf lifesaving and made so many great mates along the way; he may not have come down to Goolwa Beach. We’re glad he did. Some may suggest that us Aussies can now call him “Davo”, but perhaps that’s going a bit too far.
Maurie died several years ago and never got to see the new clubrooms. That’s sad, but here the treasured memories of those who have supported the Goolwa Surf Lifesaving Club are like the huge waves; they never stop rolling in.