Written by Life Member Gary Cook with assistance from Life Member and Club Historian Michael King
The year was 1980 when SLSA announced their momentous decision to grant full membership to females. Ladies had always been an integral part of many clubs. However, mainly in backup roles like fundraising, assisting at carnivals with catering for official guests and officials and at our club also running fashion shows and art shows to help with the purchasing of new Lifesaving equipment etc.
Our initial female Bronze Squad in 1980 was one of the first in NSW consisted of John Giddey as Instructor with young ladies Janneke Chudleigh, Late Glenn Ashton (later Milham), Megan Molloy, Janine Laird, Bev Newman (later Barnes) and Trudy Copland. They gained their awards on a cold and windy October morning at Collaroy Beach.
Later in that same season, other new female members gained 13 Bronze Medallions and 9 Qualifying Certificates. The girls were quickly integrated into Patrols and were involved in club competitions. Four of them then became part of the famous “backline” of our March Past Team, who went on in 1981 to be placed 4th at the NSW State Titles at Evans Head. They were Megan Molloy, Bev Newman (later Barnes), Trisha Noble and late Glenn Ashton (later Milham). It was very timely that the girls came along as we were struggling for team members as some of the male members were unable to continue due to work and family commitments; Life Member Gary Cook was the Coach. Newport was one of the very first to have a mixed March Past team competing at all levels regularly. In the 1981-82 season, the female contingent in the March Past team increased to six, with Gill Reed (later Hough) and Jo- Ann Davis coming across from Mona Vale SLSC. Highlights were 4th at the NSW State Championships, and 4th at the Aussies conducted at Moana in South Australia. In 1982-83 there was a bit of a change in the ladies with Gina Ashton, younger sister of the Glenn and Jean Turner (now Turner Chapman) also coming across from Mona Vale SLSC joining the team. The mixed team continued until the late 1980s, with reasonably good results all the way through. A new entire team of young ladies was formed in late 1992 with members Jane Agget, Amanda Cook (now Berrell) Kylie Butler, Claudia Jordan, Mignon Butler, Kim Gilham, Wendy Newby, Olga Hancock, Gill Reed (now Hough) Sam Stewart, Tanya Lake, Melissa Slavin and Lisa Seiler with Gary Cook as coach. Highlights of their first season were SNB Branch Championships 3rd, Inter-Cities Championships 3rd and NSW State Championships 3rd. It should be mentioned that this all-girls team was the first full female team to win a Medal at a NSW State Championships. They marched for several more seasons before School, University and work took precedence for their time. Other mixed teams competed in the early 2000s with mixed results but mainly a Club Flag Flying team in competitions, with Gary Cook continuing as coach.
With Beach events, Elona Reinalda was our first Aussies Junior Beach Sprint Champion in 1992-93 and Opens Aussies Beach Sprint Champion in 1997-98 with Martin Lynch as coach. Our first Aussies Masters ladies Beach Sprint Champion was Mikke Foley in 2006-2007, Martin Lynch, coach.
Club long term Surf Boat Captain, coach and sweep, Michael King advised that Newport had one of Australia’s first women’s Surf Boat Crew. Recruited from within the club, Karen Jones, Jenny Spring, Leah Moulds and Tanya Lake started in 1993 and in 1994 raced in an unofficial Aussies at Swansea Belmont. By 1997 numbers of crews had grown to the point that Open Women’s Surfboat was an event on the Aussies programme at Kurrawa. Newport’s crew of Karen Jones, Jenny Spring, Kirsten Todd, Kai Look and Michael King as Sweep were first in the final. Unfortunately, things did not go their way in that final, but they set a high standard for all our women’s crews.
Our first lady Life Member was June King in 2002, and the first lady Club President was Sandy Menzies from 2014 to 2016, one of the first in Sydney Northern Beaches Branch Clubs. Karen Hennessy was our first female Nipper Chairman in 2014-2015.
So, many of our club’s lady members were very much part of the early pioneers of full female membership in SLSA and those following on are still a very integral part of all facets of Newport SLSC.
There was a planned acknowledgement Ceremony at Aussies in 2020 for Anzac Day, 100 years of March Past and Surf Boat Rowing at Aussies, together with 40 years of full Membership by Females in SLSA. Unfortunately, due to Covid 19 Restrictions, this was not able to be held. Life Member Gary Cook was recruited by SLSA to be the March Past Advisor in the planning process, with regular meetings held over many months in the lead-up.
Females now make up 42% of Newport SLSC’s membership (499 females, 681 males).