Surf Clubs and Military Men: Connection or Coincidence?

From the ages of 8 to 15 I lived on Whale Beach – the second most northern beach in the formally Pittwater Council (now Northern Beaches Council I think?) – and I loved every minute of it. I was a cliché as a kid, jet blonde hair, year round tan and a love for a face full of salt water. The Surf clubs are the centre of these places. For me it was the Cabbage Tree Club down on Palm Beach along with the Packers, the Hewitt’s and Guy Sebastian for a brief period. As much as that is a name drop it brings up the point that everyone and anyone can be found in one of the 36 clubs dotted along Sydney’s coast. However, far and away the largest group among them is Military. There is an affinity between surf clubs and Military that fascinates me, why is it so tied together?
When I went for a visit down to Queenscliff SLSC on the same beach as two other thriving clubs, I was greeted by two former Australian defence force men. they walked me through the typically sandy and slightly damp bottom floor and led me up the stairs where I was greeted with tens of honour boards. The majority were for personal and club achievements and various awards won by the club or given out internally, and yet front and centre on the biggest wall was military service. By no means the longest list in the building with Queenscliff having a lot of success in national competition and yet, it took centre stage.
There is a sense of inevitability that this research will take me down a road of men rehashing their war stories to me and I would love to hear them, but I also want to go deeper as to the why. What is the appeal of a surf club to these men in particular?
I have no idea where this story will end up even as I read more and more I wonder if there is more to be found. I have been introduced to so many characters, from so many backgrounds and yet I keep coming back to military. Is it my favouritism toward military history or is it that Surf Life Saving Clubs have a natural affinity with former military men? all I know at the minute is that I keep meeting people of hero status, not is some Victorian Cross kind of way, but in a way that shows you how life should be and who you should be as a person. That has no historical impact in the grand schemes and yet I am beginning to see it as the fabric of history in community.

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