Surf Club Names Boat After Sports Official

Surf Club

Tauranga resident and Omanu Beach Surf Club member Bruce Matheson has been around surf boats for many years having started in 1979 while living in Auckland. 

We caught up with Bruce during another busy summer of competition. ‘My family were all involved with Surf Lifesaving so once qualified at 14 years old I joined a young surf boat crew at Mairangi Bay under the control of legendary sweep, Jim Campbell’, says Bruce. 

‘The sweep stands at the back of the boat and steers with a sweep oar. Four rowers complete the crew and as they have their backs to the waves it is up to the sweep to communicate what is happening, or about to happen’.

Omanu Beach did not have surf boats until Bruce arrived at the club some 16 years ago. ‘I wanted to row again after travelling and working in the UK so I brought the club an old boat from Titahi Bay Surf Club in Wellington and put together an unfit crew of middle-aged lifeguards’. 

We had a great time and this started a following which saw a number of crews start competing for the club and new boats arrive.

Bruce says, “Surf boats are made in Australia and are an expensive investment for a club but many crews can row the same boat so many members get to use it, and it’s an event where older members can enjoy competition and companionship. A surf boat also offers very good signage for sponsors.”

At the recent annual Whangamata Surf Boat Classic event, Omanu had a surprise for Bruce. Club sweep Ron Dobbs encouraged Bruce to see their new boat down on the beach before competition started.

“We wanted to acknowledge his efforts so in recognition of Bruce bringing surf boat rowing to the club we named the boat Llama, one of his nicknames from his earlier years of rowing,” said Ron.

“I was quite taken back; actually quite chuffed for Ron and Omanu to do such a thing.”

The surf lifesaving moto ‘In It for Life’ is absolutely true for Bruce who is also President of the 21Club, an organisation within New Zealand Surf Lifesaving for members who have been involved many years. 

“We used to allow new members in after 21 years service”, says Bruce.

“But we now encourage new members in earlier and acknowledge their service as the years pass by. We support Surf Lifesaving while holding gatherings around the country to keep friendships going.”

Omanu Beach SLSC welcomes new members and supporters and is always keen to speak with individuals or companies who would like to support the club and lifesaving movement. 

Bruce can be contacted at