Category Archives: Community

2018 Skullcandy Oz Grom Surfing Open

Held annually at Lennox Head in the July school holidays, this major junior surfing competition draws around 300 competitors, not only from NSW, but around Australia and even from around the world.

Many parents take advantage of the pilgrimage to combine travelling to the comp and make for a family surfing holiday.

I went out behind the scenes with a backdrop of perfect winter weather… to capture a different perspective of the general ‘cool’ vibe of the aged variety of spectators taking in the ‘Groms At Play: IN and OUT of the WATER’ …

MY FIRST AUTHORED BOOK

Well, co-authored to be correct.

For over a year, with limited resources, I was part of the dedicated volunteer ‘Surfing Lennox Crew’ applying our best efforts to assist the Lennox Head Heritage Committee produce a 104 page book Surfing Lennox: From Then to Now.

The  book chronicles 70 years surfing around the town of Lennox Head and takes you on a wild ride following the evolution of the town from a once sleepy fishing hamlet, to when the first lone surfers tentatively entered the water, to the seemingly unstoppable crowds attracted today to the iconic world renowned surf location.

The book covers the breaks of the Lennox National Surfing Reserve (LNSR) stretching from the south between Flat Rock to the Lennox Head-Alstonville Surf Club in the north. It is ten years since the dedication of the LNSR and the book explores all the themes that define National Surfing Reserves: ‘sites of environmental, cultural and historical significance to the Australian surfing culture.’

Behind this backdrop are the people, groups, the characters who were born here, visited, stayed or have come and gone. It is not only the location and environment, but this diverse bunch that together in some way, shape or form, makes Lennox such a special and unique ‘buzzing’ town.

As co-authors’ our contributions combine with materials delivered via donations from the public to make for irreplaceable recollections the local community can now keep as an archival document.  The volume of information and images received was overwhelming and we faced some difficult challenges; many decisions about inclusion were very tough to make.

To include everything and everyone was impossible and there is no claim as definitive, but in turning the history pages of our towns surfing journey the modest size book still covers a great measure of authentic ground. Who knows, perhaps, with more resources the next generation could produce a definitive history and fill a large 300 page hard-cover book.

But right now we do finally have an interesting, stylishly presented book. And all entirely locally produced, edited, designed and printed!

Monies from the sale of the book will go to the not-for-profit Lennox Head Heritage Committee and Lennox National Surfing Reserve Inc.

Surfing Lennox From Then to Now is currently selling at Lennox Post Office,  and local shops, Anchor Chief, The Book Room, Lennox Head Surf and ABC Bookstore Ballina for $49.00 RRP.

Sharknado at Lennox beach 1st Anniversary

The Lennox Sharknado landed me right in the middle of the ‘Cull to Cuddling’ sharks debate…

It’s a year now since the shark was sucked up out of the sea and fell from the sky and deposited on Lennox Head beach a victim of Cyclone Marcia.

Well, supposedly that’s what happened, if you believe the ‘Immedia’.

After my initial Facebook post the mainstream ‘Immedia’ lifted comments to help create a MAS-MIS-INFORMATION SHARKNADO spiralling out of control to become a worldwide trending topic that week.

If you missed the story of the most significant beach landing since Normandy you can read this article I wrote in response for the Lennox Wave magazine:

The Truth About The Shark On Lennox Beach

A year on, and leaving the silliness of the Lennox Sharknado behind, according to the International Shark Attack File, 2015 recorded the highest ever number of shark attacks worldwide since the collection of data in 1958. The count recorded 98 verified unprovoked attacks, and 6 of those fatal. While attacks did increase, fatality rates kept to the average.

With the added fuel of ‘Immedia’ hype, the temperature between approaches of ‘Cull to Cuddle’ in the shark mitigation debate soared to RED HOT.

The debate is inadvertently providing a ‘Sharknado type SPIN’ of distraction, letting governments off the hook by diverting attention away from the true culprits pillaging and plundering our oceans.

In response to the shark mitigation debate, many concerned about shark conservation have raised these statistics as insignificant when compared to road accidents, dog attacks, snake bite, deaths caused by hippopotamus and falling coconuts. They point out the fact that over 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year. That shark bites are simply a case of innocently mistaking humans for their prey after just sampling a taste.

But no matter how low the percentages, these statistics are not just as trivial as unforced errors in a tennis match. At the other end of the court are human victims.

The implications reach further than the death of some victims (or the ‘lucky’ ones) that survive and are left inflicted with horrendous pain, suffering and grief. The post-traumatic stress can carry on to victims’ families, friends, rescuers, witnesses and bystanders. Indeed, the PTS is penetrating deeper into the psyche of communities, particularly close-knit smaller coastal towns like here in Northern NSW.

After unfortunately tallying too well in the 2015 percentage count, the mood here toward sharks has swung all the way from once carefree, then nonplus, to unnerving and now fraught with anxiety for some. A rare few remain blasé, some have called for more mitigation action, and some have drastically called out “cull the bastards!”

The conservation side disagree; believing sharks are misunderstood, should be left in peace, nurtured and deserve a ‘cuddle.’

While scientists and researches claim otherwise, anecdotally many long term surfers and ‘old-salt sea farers’ say they have witnessed and encountered more shark numbers ‘than usual’ the past few years. Some ‘old-salts’ go as far to say protection of sharks (particularly Great Whites) has become pedantic and they are no longer endangered, have recovered and indeed increased in numbers. (There is no conclusive evidence to claims of both sides.)

The majority of surfers and ‘salts’ are genuinely concerned for the ocean’s welfare and do respect it and want it protected. They are out there every day with many years of experience observing with their ‘own brand of science’ and something intuitive tells them the balance has changed.

Yet they believe their message is being misunderstood. Those asking for a ‘controlled cull’ are not calling for ‘genocide’ and are offering opinions seriously as quick, simple, traditional and inexpensive option. They refer not only to ‘the customary way’ but also some Polynesian cultures who actually apply culls to individual threats. And documented cases of Orcas killing a Great White, to then find all the G.W.’s in the region move on. Immediately. And great distances at that, like California to Hawaii.

Slamming back this option, some conservationists responses roar with passion about shark protection and their territorial rights. Some comment simplistically with “stay out of the water”. Other comments go down murkier waters aimed at victims “it’s the sharks’ territory and served you right for getting bitten.” And, even more spiteful comments like “cull the surfers and humans.”

While everyone is entitled to their opinions, these unwarranted and disturbing comments coming from ‘so called conservationists’ have no place in a sensible shark mitigation debate. To somehow exclude and negate the human element is at best hypocritical and worse insensitive and disrespectful toward victims.

How have innocent ocean goers asking for protection become the target of hate comments that inappropriately brand them as irresponsible invaders intruding and interfering in the sharks’ domain? For mentioning the word ‘cull’ the ‘salts’ have been cast into the same net and scale of blame as those responsible for the mass slaughters in the Asian shark finning market.

There needs to be perspective applied to the debate and understanding the difference between discussions of local mitigation options compared to other global non-sustainable commercial fishing statistics.

We humans supposedly evolved from the sea and have an affinity to return, regardless of whether the ocean is deemed the sharks’ territory. In fact, just by being a species sharing the planet we have some rights to enter the ocean as a playground. However, we don’t have an exclusive right to work our dominance over the oceans for corporate commercial gain.

The debate of shark mitigation has led to a divide between ocean loving people fighting each other with the same end-goal, while deflecting from ‘the real’ bigger picture issues.

Everyone should take the lead set by the shark victims support group ‘Bite Club’ which provides comradery enabling members to talk about how one is feeling and coping with PTSD. The key to the therapeutic benefits of the group, is knowing you are not alone and members have something (rare) in common and survivors can be heard with empathy and compassion.

But the ‘Cull to Cuddle’ opinions within Bite Club also differ greatly. However, regardless of any individual opinion, the most important rule among the group is whatever side of the debate you lean, your opinion is respected and the focus above all, is the human element.

First Rule of Bite Club: “Talk about it!”

A MUST WATCH urging respect from both sides of the contentious and polarised views between ‘culling to cuddling’ sharks is presented here by Bite Club member Dale Carr: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-JrHPpKOKE

In an ideal world, protection of sharks as the apex predator is vital to keep the ocean’s ecosystem in check. But what happens when the ecosystem is already way out of check? Regardless of shark numbers (proven to have risen or fallen) we at least seem to be experiencing an increase of (Great White) sharks much closer to our shorelines.

The larger pool of the ocean as a whole is virtually empty and in a state of collapse desperately needing rescuing while a debate (argument) only centres on ‘the play around our shorelines’.

Here in Northern NSW as the example, an apparent abundance of sea life is attracting shark presence and indicates a healthy ecosystem. But when casting the net much further from just this thriving pocket of coastline to the wider majority of the world’s ocean, could the sharks now be queuing up at one of the rare eateries left offering a meal?

Could it also be that when we factor in more people than ever interacting in an ocean with worldwide decreasing sea-life in the food chain, it is equating to more sharks unfortunately sometimes (and now more often) accidently choosing from the wrong menu?

Regardless of whether this can be proven, it’s time to turn up the heat and raise pressure on government accountability for allowing our sea life to be slaughtered by approving such beasts as Super Trawlers and other en-masse non-sustainable fishing methods. This includes certain shark cage diving practises (but that’s another separate long story.)

We need a sensible and above all, respectable shark mitigation debate. Instead of arguing among ourselves whether sharks are landing on our beaches as a result of falling from the sky, let’s instead band together and turn attention to focus back on the real big-picture issue problem of depleting sea life in our oceans.

This link provides a very compelling account as to just how broken the ocean is: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1848433/the-ocean-is-broken/

Lennox Walks for Climate Change

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Approximately 300 people marched in Lennox Head in solidarity with people all over the world as part of the Peoples Climate March on Sunday 29th November.

The event was organised by Community Owned Renewable Energy Lennox (COREL), a newly formed group which aims to take local action on climate change through various renewable energy projects . Any future money and sponsorship COREL raise will be put back into clean powering community owned assets.

LOGO

The Walk fell on the eve of the Paris Climate Conference and was intended to send a message around the globe for action on climate change. A crowd gathered at the park near the bus shelter where they listened to speakers, including organiser Amelia Hicks, Greens MP Tamara Smith and multi award winning travel writer Louise Southerden. Other guest speakers included members of community energy group Mullumbimby COREM sharing their knowledge and experiences after already being established since 2014.

In attendance were Ballina Councillor Jeff Johnson and Mayor David Wright.  Many participants in the walk and others passively attending added their name to a public letter which will be sent to Ballina Council showing the community’s support for new renewable community projects.

Despite the cloudy weather (and several light showers) the event PA was completely powered by the sun, thanks to Sebastian Sledge of Solar Trailers Australia and his 1.6 KW mobile power station. The sound gear was supplied by Disco Statik and Master M.C. Vic Leto was very impressed that for the first time in 32 years hosting, the P.A. ran entirely ‘unplugged’ and free off the sun!

After the speeches the large crowd made its way onto the beach for a photo and then a short walk to the Surf Club and return. Once back the entertainment was led by musicians Gair and the very funny trio of ‘Bronnie and the Bishops.’

NOTE: As a founding member of COREL I was also an organiser of the event.

Vic Leto.

MOvember Club Lennox 2014

Donations from passing the tin around at Club Lennox Movember 70’s Disco night helped raise over $600 from patrons keen to witness Bar Manager Dave McKinnon shave his Mo shaved off.

Dressed by menswear shops George Gooley Lismore and Wallace and Co Ballina Dave was looking like one smart COOL CAT!!!

That was until Hairdresser Kathleen Everingham pulled out the clippers and whisked that handle bar Mo right off his face.

Dave surviving the encounter then quite bravely asked “what would the bounty on his head be worth?” and at that point gold coin donations quickly turned to flowing BANK NOTES!!!

With many people really embracing the theme and wearing their 70’s attire the atmosphere was fun and colourful and the whole night transformed into a kind of time warp celebration back that decade of great music and the retro Disco led by DJ Master Vic had many a funksters grooving  on the dance floor.

How Zorro Enterd the Fight for Club Lennox

Long retired in California, in late 2012  Zorro’s sword-hand twitched when news arrived from a distant land  of what some financial oppressors in Sydney Australia had done to a small community in a province on the Far North Coast of New South Wales.

Initially under the guise of an amalgamation, a takeover coup was instead staged by the mean spirited repressive authorities from the big city. They had destroyed the assets, literally closed the doors and thrown away the keys to what was once the community owned Lennox Head Bowls, Sports and Recreation Club.

Early in 2013 the local community rallied, and a fundraising committee was set a target of raising $185,000 to re-establish a new community owned club.

One of the many hats of Lennox Head citizen Vic Leto is a D.J., so along with Allen of Disco Statik they offered their services to stage a Kids Disco as the first fundraising event. It was by now April and with no venue the Disco was held at the Lennox Head Community Centre.

Near $3000 was raised.

(read a review of the event and the progress of other fundraisers to help save the club here):  http://lennoxwave.com/2013/04/big-weekend-club-lennox/

Fast Forward to mid-July and at critical point in the revolution:

Vic walks into a situation to see one of the towns most seasoned champion charity fundraisers Tracey Armstrong hyperventilating into a brown paper bag. By now the fight against the oppressors had taken its toll and even this proven campaigner was stressing over the prospect that the major fundraising event may have to be cancelled.

The Grand Masquerade Ball was scheduled to bring the funds that would lead the momentum toward the final charge that would define the ultimate success or failure of the fundraising target. But after many months of battle the citizens had become weary and lack of support meant the event and indeed the future club seemed lost.

Vic witnessing this heartbreaking scene knew the time had now come for drastic measures.

In a previous life Vic had known Zorro and felt he had no other option but to contact his old amigo. Time was of the essence and unlike centuries past a message via carrier pigeon wouldn’t suffice and so sent an email pleading for Zorro’s immediate assistance.

Within days Zorro and his lovely accomplice Elena were seen on the local streets demanding the citizens’ presence at the Masquerade Ball. The wealthy were especially targeted, and the couple suddenly stormed many elite business compounds of the province by surprise.

Especially  caught off guard was the head scribe of the shire newspaper. The editor of the Ballina Advocate was held captive in his own office with a blade to his neck  and was issued an ultimatum: “Spread this story of goodwill…OR ELSE!!!”

(You can actually watch the exclusive video caught on security cameras when Zorro and Elena stormed the newspaper office):

http://www.northernstar.com.au/videos/zorro-makes-his-mark/19457/

In one particular stoush when Zorro was challenged by a Comandante of a large financial institution who objected cynically:

“why should I contribute?” Zorro’s tongue became sharper than his blade and he countered;

“Because Signor while wealthy men sit on their fat wallets and do nothing a community is surely doomed to failure!”

On hearing this, the Comandante’s own personal secretary rose from her chair and did in spite decree,

“I shall buy a ticket and be in attendance!”

And with a tip of his hat Zorro thanked the senorita and the last sound the Comandante heard was the swish of Zorro’s cape as he  and Elena disappeared.

The results: the Ball fundraiser contributed $17,000 toward  an eventual total of $200,000. Quite remarkably the target was reached in less than a year, through a variety of other staged events, raffles, a  new membership drive and actively seeking out donations.

In the end the new community owned Club Lennox was open Boxing day 2013.

Zorro vanished never to be seen again and while his assistance was a great help, he alone did not save the club. Like all revolutions against oppression and tyranny, success is only made possible after massive voluntary contributions come from an impassioned and bonded community that come together to support each other. Zorro’s presence just happened to remind the citizens of their own inner bravery, and he re-ignited this just at the time their faith had waned.

Oh, and despite any rumours, Vic Leto continues to deny he has any knowledge as to the whereabouts of Zorro and just exactly who  is the identity behind the mask 😉  Z

Club Lennox Histroy

Just some of the posters and headlines of Club Lennox  in 2013.