History of the Owen Chapman Cup Surf Carnival
Surf life saving's longest running club day in Australasia
The Owen Chapman Cup surf carnival had a very humble beginning when it was first contested at Red Beach in 1957.
The cup was donated by the late Owen Chapman (below), former entertainment committee chairman of Pinewoods Motor Park who owned a holiday bach in the park adjacent to the beach.
The purpose was to foster surf lifesaving competition amongst the four Auckland east coast clubs of Red Beach, Orewa, Mairangi Bay and Eastern United who patrolled at Browns Bay.
Owen Chapman imagined the event to be a low-key beach day along the lines of a picnic carnival with competition not to be taken too seriously.
The inaugural event was held in early-January to entertain the campers and holidaymakers from Pinewoods Motor Park who strongly supported the fledgling club which was founded just four years earlier in 1953.
Rescue and resuscitation were the prime events of the era, and the 4-Man Alarm and 6-Place R & R were the key events on the programme. Also included were a surf race, a belt race, beach sprints, beach relays, a chariot race and a March Past. The original tear-drop shaped surf skis were included in the competition at a later date.
A Tug O’ War, with teams of 6 or 8, was the last event on the programme, carrying the prize of a crate of beer to the winning team. This became a highlight of the carnival in the years to follow.
The key function in the preparation of the day, and at successive carnivals, was to lay a set of 8 marker buoys, anchored by a sandbag at each end. The surf club sought the help of locals by borrowing a dinghy or runabout to do this. If no craft was available, club members took it upon themselves to walk the sandbags into position, holding their breath as they stumbled along the seabed.
Club members were encouraged to compete in all events, the catchphrase being “go in everything!"
The first winner of the cup was Eastern United who won it on four consecutive occasions before the host club claimed it in 1961.
In the early 1970’s, the Owen Chapman Cup carnival was expanded to include east and west coast surf clubs from the entire Auckland region. Surf boat competition was introduced to the programme around the same time.
But it was still an all-male event. The Red Beach club did not introduce women members to its active ranks until 1974. Events for women competitors were introduced to the Owen Chapman carnival programme soon after this.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, visiting Australian branch and club teams have competed in the carnival, although ineligible to win the cup which can only be won by a surf club based in the SLS Northern Region.
In recent years, and because of the ideal timing of the carnival, lifeguards from other regions have also participated with the aim being to hone their skills in a highly competitive environment and win selection for district representative teams.
The participation of top surf athletes from around the country has raised the competitive standards and large competitor numbers have become the norm.
Based on competitor attendances, the Owen Chapman Carnival has grown to become the third largest surf carnival in New Zealand after the Nationals and the Northern Region Championships (JuniorSurf carnivals excluded).
Owen Chapman would undoubtedly be impressed with the event which had such a humble beginning so long ago.
The 4-Man Alarm drill event being contested by a Red Beach team at an Owen Chapman Cup surf carnival in the late-1950's. The spectators were holiday-makers from nearby Pinewoods Motor Park and surrounding areas.