Surf World

New Era at Surfworld

Tim Baker | August 2019

The Gold Coast surf museum ushers in a new chairman, new committee and a string of successful events as it enters its second decade.

There are big things afoot at Surf World, the Gold Coast’s much-loved surf museum.

After nearly 10 years at the helm, founding chairman and local surf pioneer Mal Sutherland is enjoying a well-earned retirement, and former world longboard champion and surf reporter Andrew McKinnon has taken the reins.

Andrew is joined by a cast of new committee members who have been busy staging a series of sold out events throughout 2019, with more to follow. Andrew has been joined on the new-look committee by well-known fashion designer Karen Neilsen, who has helped give the museum a fresh new look, and Angela Collins, who’s handling social media and graphic design. Local surf legend, and winner of the 1980 Stubbies Classic, Peter Harris has come on board as patron. Catering for events is now handled by Sumptuous Fine Foods, who offer a range of gourmet meals at reasonable prices.

“It’s been exciting. It’s been a challenge trying to re-build and re-generate the place,” says Andrew.

“We want to tell the whole story not just the history. I like to say it’s about the spirit of surfing, so that’s the whole thing. It’s a fifth-generation recreational activity now and there’s a bigger demographic turning up at the events.

“With the new committee we have seven women and six men and that was a first. We have a whole new committee and a whole new vision of what we can do to make it better and brighter and more appealing.”

The new-look Surf World kicked off with one of its most popular events, Women in the Waves, back in March, with a diverse panel of legendary female surfers including Pam Burridge, Pauline Menczer, Phyllis O’Donnell, Sally MacKinnon and Toni Sawyer.

That was followed by champion surfer Ian “Kanga” Cairns’ book launch for his biography Kanga, by surf writer Sean Murphy, which re-united him with old mates and rivals Peter Townend and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew for a lively panel discussion.

In May, Surf World hosted the launch of The Rip Curl Story, the history of the iconic Australian surf brand to mark its 50th anniversary, and a fascinating chat with one of its founders, Doug “Claw” Warbrick, who now calls the Gold Coast home.

And in June, a memorial slide night was held in honour of much-loved local surf photographer Lee Pegus who succumbed to cancer. It was a poignant trip back in time to see Lee’s images on the big screen capturing many of Gold Coast surfing’s most memorable moments and characters.

Later that month, surf cinematographer John “Gordo” Gordon staged Gordo’s Goodwill Fundraiser to help disadvantaged South African families in Jeffreys Bay, who Gordo and world champ Joel Parkinson have been assisting ever since they started visiting the famous wave in the late ‘90s.

In July, another local surfing great, Peter Drouyn, hosted the most popular night in Surf World’s history, with a stirring discussion of his illustrious career, the state of modern surfing and a screening of his classic 1973 signature movie, Drouyn, to a packed house.

Surf World also boasts one of the best collection of surfboards in the country, much of it courtesy of local surfboard collector Carl Tanner, who is also responsible for the museum extensive ukulele collection. Surf World has always hosted popular events, but getting enough daily visitors through the doors has proven a challenge.

“People love the history, and they also love to be able to come to events where they can see the likes of Kanga, PT, and Rabbit and hear their stories. The challenge is to make the visitation high enough to keep the place viable,” says Andrew.

Surf World has enjoyed great support from City of Gold Coast Council as well as its landlords, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and is run entirely by volunteers. But more funding is needed to make the museum sustainable into the future and raise its profile befitting a global hub of surf culture like the Gold Coast. “Without Gold Coast Council and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary we’d be struggling to keep the doors open,” says Andrew.

Surf World recently secured funding to bring in consultants to help refine their exhibitions.

“We’ve got funding to create a workshop with professional curators with heritage expertise and they can evaluate what we’ve got here and how we can make it more appealing and more inviting,” says Andrew.

Founding chairman Mal Sutherland was recently honoured with Surf World’s first life membership for his tireless work over almost a decade. “The Museum wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for Mal … We’ve got to honour him and credit him,” says Andrew.

Upcoming events include book launches for 1966 world champion Nat Young in September and renowned surfboard shaper Shane Stedman in October. In February 2020, the Gold Coast will play host to the sixth annual Global Wave Conference in conjunction with Southern Cross University. As part of the conference, Surf World will host the Ocean Conservation photographic exhibition and an Industry Night featuring legendary surf charter skipper Tony “Doris” Eltherington and the book launch of Jelly Boy by Nicole Godwin.

Surf World Details

Location: Tomewin St, Currumbin, right opposite the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and above Honeyworld

Opening hours: 10am to 4:45pm daily

Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for children, $20 for families


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