The tale behind the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Walking around Mauao isn't the same at present without the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service building that has guarded the oceanfront for decades, after being demolished to make way for a brand-new facility. 

In 1976, a Mount Maunganui Surf Club think-tank led by David Lowe senior tackled the long term future of the club.

One compelling fact to emerge, was the need for a new clubhouse to service the increasing demands placed on the surf club by the booming Western Bay of Plenty population.  

In November 1979, the new club rooms were opened, however disaster struck on December 30 1981, when an arson attack destroyed much of the downstairs.

Included in the loss, was the vast majority of the clubs rescue equipment, including the IRB, beach vehicle and most of the rescue tubes.

From the wreckage emerged a real club and community spirit that remains to this day.

The first substantial community partner was Radio BOP, who used their media presence and on-air personalities to raise a substantial amount of money towards the rebuilding and replacement of equipment. 

Over the years, the MMLGS has produced a number of strong leaders and interesting personalities.

There have been few more recognisable than Louis Jordain, who was thrust into the forefront of the public appeal for funds to rebuild and replace the club equipment.

Lou became a genius at extracting money from people and organisations. 

A massive Lottery Grants Board cut in funding to surf lifesaving in 1983, began the start of a more professional approach to surf-rescue fund raising. 

While surf clubs including Mount Maunganui had relied on public support by way of blanket and bucket collections, the funding cuts became the catalyst for a more innovative approach to clubs remaining financially viable.

The 1980's became a time of real change for the MMLGS, as the club looked at their long term future and developed strategies to cope.

Much of the change resulted from looking at managing their strip of beach and the beach-going population over a 10 to 20 year period, instead of just responding to year by year challenges. 

Lifeguarding innovations that the club developed in that time included the permanent use of IRBs for patrolling, the establishment of a 24 hour callout squad and an open beach management plan.

The new patrolling strategies required considerable amounts of money to implement and led to a fresh approach to fundraising by the club. 

While the first IRB presented to the club was the result of fundraising by the staff and patrons of the Greerton Hotel, the first seeds of commercial sponsorship were seen in the club naming the craft “Miss Cobb & Co”.

The donation of the boat, followed the visit to the club of the Greerton Hotel Manager to view the devastation created by the fire.  

Lou Jordain wore many hats over the years and as Chairman of Bay of Plenty Surf Lifesaving, was instrumental in December 1982 in putting together a partnership between SLSBOP  and Quality Bakers.

From each loaf of bread produced by Parnwell Bakeries in Tauranga, two cents was donated to surf lifesaving. 

Lou became a past master in “tug of the heart strings” appeals, stating in support of the bread promotion, that the Bay of Plenty surf clubs, were in dire straits financially.

Quality Bakers decked the special loaves out in red and yellow wrappers and also sponsored the Radio BOP beach reports to support the promotion.

Their reward was a huge amount of publicity, much of it generated by Lou Jordain. 

The biggest promotion that Lou Jordain and his merry men were associated with, took place at the Mount Main Beach on the 4th January 1988, when Radio BOP ran a hugely successful ping pong drop. 

A crowd estimated to be 20,000 strong crammed the main beach, with sharks in a feeding frenzy best describing the day when the balls where dropped amongst the beachgoers from an aircraft.

People scrambled everywhere as the ping pong balls hit the sand, with more than 3000 ping pong balls dropped with each ball retrieved winning a prize. 

Lou Jordain passed away in May 2013 aged 81 years and is still remembered by the many that came into contact with the irrepressible gentleman, with great fondness. 


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