Classic carnival celebrates past and present


The Tahunanui Classic Carnival was a day of sun, surf and friendly competition, coinciding with the Nelson Surf Life Saving and Nelson Boardriders club’s reunion.

Unlike a competitive carnival, Saturday’s activities at Tahunanui Beach were purely for entertainment, and designed so anyone could get involved, including people from other surf life-saving clubs around the region. While those taking part were mostly the younger members of the Nelson club, ex surf life-savers and board riders watched on, remembering the old days and seeing how much things have changed since the original club was established.

“Surf life-saving in Nelson has gone through a number of reincarnations, surf life-saving started in 1932 in Nelson and at various times it faded away and restarted and it sort of existed on and off up until the 50s. Then, in about 1956, a number of other surf life-savers from other clubs around the country came here and really strongly thought they wanted to have an official club with a club house,” says current Nelson Surf Life Saving president, Marcus Gardner.

The club continued this pattern until 1982 when a lack of membership forced it into recess, and not long after that the old club-house was burnt down.

“Surf life-saving was going through a lot of changes in those days, from using reel and rope with a swimmer on the end to rescue people, to the rescue tube in the 80s and the BP inflatable boats.

That was partly how our club came about, the old Tahuna club had been dead for a short number of years, and then we had people come from out of Nelson who thought we did really need a surf life-saving club. In those days you had to start from scratch and we started as a community rescue service, and basically grew that organisation to the point where we could get back to being an official life-saving club,” says Marcus.

The reunion weekend, which started on Friday with a casual meet and greet, is the last opportunity to get all the past and present club members together.

“From the 1950s, 1960s, right through to the early 1980s era, we’ve got a good spread across all the decades. We’ve got one or two of the early members who are in their 80s now, who were involved with the club in the 1950s when they built the original clubhouse that used to be here in the days when [membership] was really strong, and then we’ve got people through the 1970s up to 1980,” says Marcus.

After the carnival on Saturday, which allowed past members to see how surf life-saving has progressed, a formal dinner was held at The Boathouse.

“Its just amazing to have the stories come out and the people remember so much, it’s been really interesting, and its good because it links surf life-saving right back, from where we are now, to its earlier history,” says Marcus.

“A lot of them watch surf life-saving on television and things, and they just say “its not like it used to be but it looks a hell of a lot of fun, and that’s the main thing, it’s all about having fun and keeping the kids coming through.”

The carnival included IRB racing, beach flags, board racing and swimming races.

“The club wouldn’t exist without the support of the local public and businesses, we exist purely to help the community and the sport side is the fun side that we do,” says Marcus.