Champions of the Waves

Enduring Marathon Surfboat Races

This trophy was awarded to Swansea-Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club members who won marathon boat races between 1966 and 1968. The club, now known as Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club, has a proud history in this gruelling and demanding surf sport category. In the mid-1900s, marathon surfboat races were considered an ultimate test of stamina and seamanship, becoming the highlight of the surf lifesaving season.
Usually between 3km-12km in length, they required crews to row though surf and open water for long periods of time – sometimes surpassing an hour. Fighting ocean conditions and blisters, crews would choose a path which meant sticking close to shore and dealing with breaking surf or moving further out to sea where large swells could be hazardous.

Four of the names on this trophy, Peter Ellercamp, Don Ellercamp, Robert Baxter and Ken Murray were also part of the legendary Caves Senior A Boat Crew, who won the NSW State Title four years in a row (1961-1964).  The additional crew member in each of the four wins were, Jim Cowan in 1961, Ian Ferry in 1962, and Henry Jonczyk in the 1963 and 1964 crews.

In 1970, the Caves Beach crew of Don Ellercamp, Peter (Mick) Ellercamp, Robert Baxter, Ken Murray, and Henry Jonczyk competed in the Cook Strait Marathon. This was the longest surfboat marathon in Australia or New Zealand at the time, stretching across 27km.  After a shaky start, the Australian crew boldly chased the field and managed to take the lead briefly, before a broken oar dashed their chances and put them in fourth place.  In 2008, these five men were named ‘Hunter Boat Crew of the Century.’

Today, marathon races are no longer a mainstay of Australian surf carnivals, but some of the remaining competitions push well-past the limits of the original races. For instance, the George Bass Marathon is a seven-day endurance race from Batemans Bay to Eden, traversing almost 170kms of coastline.

Trophies, such as this one, act as an important part of the ongoing legacy of surf lifesaving. A legacy which helps inspire current athletes to become champions in their own right.