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Surf club stalwarts reflect on days in sun

They’re still clubbies but 19 years was “probably long enough” on the Raglan Surf Life Saving Club committee, say Anne and Mark Snowden as they now approach their first summer without that longtime commitment.

Their four daughters — Jen, Kimberley, Emma and Kate — have grown up in that time, progressing through the surf club ranks from nippers to rookies to senior lifeguards. And it won’t be long before the next generation of Snowdens start the process all over again.

Anne and Mark reckon they’ve seen some big changes over the years at the surf club, which began from a tent on the beach 36 years ago. That was a good bit before their time but for their first eight years’ involvement — before the road to Ngarunui Beach even existed, let alone the clubhouse on the hill — transporting kids and gear along the beach from clubrooms at Ocean Beach was the norm.

The mode of transport was tractor and trailer and it was just part of the fun of club Sundays, says Anne.
The regular trips along the beach were precarious at times, depending on how many rocks there were to avoid. Sometimes the trailer might tip over, spilling its load and delaying the staking out of the familiar red and yellow flags in the sand at the southern end of the beach.

The flags, along with the IRBs and the life tubes, are still put in place on Ngarunui Beach every Saturday and Sunday morning from Labour Weekend to Easter, and every weekday too during the height of the season — but as of this year from a brand-new tower which Anne was determined to see built before bowing out.

Having been part of the building committee for several years, as well as club president, Anne says it was her “baby”. Now, with the new tower in place, she can quite happily retire from voluntary club duties.

The couple got hooked into the surf club way of life, helping out with the juniors in their black and red caps when their own kids were small. One thing led to another and Anne became club secretary-cum-treasurer while Mark kept an eye on the gear and the IRBs.

Then came the national surf life saving competitions which saw the whole family travel with the club as far south as Christchurch and as far north to Ahipara. And then the girls got into IRB racing and, more recently, paddleboarding which added a new element to club life.

But at this year’s AGM in June someone else, at long last, put their hand up to take over the presidency. The time was right, says Anne, and she felt the club was in good hands.

Not that she’s completely bowed out of surf club life. Anne took on a new role recently, judging the IRB competition for the seniors up at Omaha, north of Auckland — and came back with a mouthful of blisters to show for it. It’ll be zinc on the lips next time round at the day-long events under the blistering sun, she reckons.

Anne and Mark talk now of how the surf life saving club organisation, nationally, has become much more professional over the years.

“You have to be so accountable,” they say. “The expectation at all levels from club committee to lifeguards is huge.”
And the standard of the lifeguard awards is high right across the board, with a lot more paperwork than ever before to get through, they add.

But all in all it’s been nearly two decades of fun and learning for the Snowdens, with a lot of sociability built into the program. “You meet American and English guards each season,” says Anne, who come to experience a Kiwi summer, often returning with friends the following years.

“And it’s not really tough spending Sundays on the beach,” she quips. Except tor the blisters of course.

Edith Symes

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