The Currumbin Beach Vikings SLSC holds a unique place in the history of Australian Surf Life Saving with its precarious positioning on “Elephant Rock” – a club formed in 1919 with a small shack positioned on the northern side of the rock formation.
Now some 90 years on the premier club in Point Danger Branch, has proudly survived storm and tempest to serve the southern Gold Coast community.
The club now stands like a colossus, often pounded by storm surf, but its uniqueness makes it one of the best outlooks of any club on the coast and one of the strongest.
Currumbin has produced some of Australia’s finest surf lifesavers who have patrolled continuously every year for the past nine decades, risking their lives and braving treacherous conditions to save others.
The Humble Beginnings of 1919
The thriving club of 2010 is a far cry from the early years which saw Currumbin officially formed in 1919 after a recommendation from Fielding Chippendale to some young locals to form a surf club after he placed a box with a line and belt on the beach. Chippendale had witnessed the drowning death of his daughter off Currumbin Rock and was inspired to ensure the safety of anyone who swam there.
Among those early young members was Peter Mitchell, Currumbin’s first club captain and instructor after being awarded his bronze medallion on the 11th of January 1920.
Money and members were scarce in the early days until the Vikings Swimming Club from Ipswich merged with the Surf Club to resuscitate the ailing Currumbin and it became the Currumbin Beach Vikings, as it is known today.
This occurred in the 1930’s around the same time that the club relocated to Elephant Rock – a momentus occasion.
Through the War years the club struggled and hard-working member Dick Lucas would drive members from Ipswich down to Currumbin in his old truck.
Immediately after World War II saw the emergence of a group of champion swimmers led by Marshall Kropp, John Neumann and Les Sawtell and a strong era of competition was born.
Their presence in Branch and Queensland State teams produced great belt swimmers, surf teams and R and R squads who were among the best in Australia.
Rabjohns Leads Currumbin to Golden Era
Currumbin is a name synonymous with success and countless Queensland and National champions and some of Australia’s greatest lifesavers and Olympians grace the walls of the Vikings, a club crowned Australian champions in 1977, 1998 and 1999.
The mid to late 60s and early 70s saw the emergence of the club’s glory years in competition. Champion waterman and life member Norm Rabjohns led the Vikings charge, winning back-to-back Australian ironman titles in 1971 and 1972, the same year he won the single ski.
He led a group of some of Australia’s finest craft competitors who dominated this era, highlighted by the three consecutive Australian Taplin Relay wins in 1976, 1977 and 1978.
Vikings Fab 15 Triumph in Bancoora
Rabjohns and legendary board paddler Dick Cahill were in all three teams, as was Olympic swimmer and 1500m world record holder at the time, Steve Holland.
Cahill would end his career with a staggering 10 Aussie gold medals.
The Vikings capped this era with it’s first ever Australian Champion Club pointscore win in 1977 at Victoria’s infamous Bancoora Beach, braving the freezing conditions with a team of only 15 competitors.
Currumbin was the toast of the coast – the first Queensland club to win the coveted Australian points score. The Vikings were led throughout this era by long term president, the late and great, Marshall Kropp – who’s grandchildren Jackson and Riley Maynard carry on his legacy today with father Chris Maynard, one of the legends of the sport and now a member of the club’s respected coaching staff.
Holland also turned his hand to ironman racing and became a stalwart of the Currumbin Vikings golden era, a time when Olympians dominated the sport.
The Vikings were not short on Olympians with gold medallists from 1984 Jon Sieben and 1988 Duncan Armstrong and 1984 Olympic bronze medallist Justin Lemberg swapping the famous AUS swim cap for the equally famous green and white quartered Currumbin Vikings surf cap – in surf lifesaving circles anyway.
Another Olympian, Sydney 2000 Olympic relay golden medallist Ashley Callus was also a graduate of the Currumbin Juniors, while Athens 2000 Olympic gold and silver medallist Brooke Hanson also linked up with the Vikings after stints with Freshwater and Torquay.
Record 14 Australian Patrol Competitions
The club’s record to win 14 Australian Patrol Competitions – 10 of them consecutively between 1992 and 2001 is testament to the quality of surf lifesaver who have worn the famous green and white quartered caps.
As far as families go the Cahill family led by Dick, his two sons Steve and Ben; Dick’s brother Mick and his daughters Dana and Hayley amassed 29 Australian gold medals.
During this golden era of the club, Trent Balym, who has been the SLSA posterboy for so many years with his image of carrying a patient from the water splashed all over Australia, would also win five consecutive Champion Lifesaver titles and together with Peter Dawes they would each gather 11 Australian gold medals.
It was Life Member Jeff Foreman who would inspire a group of men and women who would become some of the unsung heroes of Australian surf lifesaving.
Through the 1998 and 1999 seasons the Vikings would win countless medals at Queensland and Australian Championships from every form of competition – from lifesaving to boats, to board riding and beach sprints to board and ski paddling and ironman to add their second and third Australian Club pointscores.
The club’s strength showed in Currumbin winning gold in the open men’s, under 18 and under 16 Australian beach sprint championships with Travis Quennell, Brett Robinson and Adam Atkins all breasting the tape to create history in 1998.