Southy has a long and proud tradition of surf boat rowing. A new boat, usually named to celebrate a noteworthy member became part of the Club’s story. The Wally Proudfoot was one of these surf boats.
Towards the end of 1938, the club committee decided to establish a boat fund with the aim of purchasing a new boat to replace the old ‘banana bender’ which had long passed the stage of usefulness. A target of £130 was set, not a small sum in the late 1930s. The whole cost was to be paid by an initial deposit and three quarterly payments and funds were needed. Letters were sent to leading city busines houses and to the manufacturers of sporting goods setting out the Club’s aims and appealing for a donation to the boat fund. Over fifty of these letters were sent, the net result being a cheque for 10/6 from Hoyts Theatres. It hardly compensated for the stamps used. Fortunately the Club’s keenness was not daunted and other avenues of raising funds were found.
Some local residents offered assistance, including club supporter Mrs Colin Tannock. Mrs Tannock organised a weekly euchre party, the funds from which became the down payment for the new boat. So successful did those evenings become that 50 chairs and a number of card tables were purchased for the comfort of those attending. The balance grew steadily, despite a Club membership of only 30.
In March 1939, Messrs N. & E. Towns of Newcastle was asked for a quotation covering the building of a surf boat that would embody all the necessary life-saving facilities laid down by Surf Life Saving Association, and that could be used for racing as well as for general club use, including one suspects, some fishing.
Preparations were being carried out at that time for the Surf Life Saving Association’s Pacific tour and two new boats had been ordered by the Association for the contests that were to be held in Honolulu. Southy’s new boat was to be built, like these on the new designs. We ordered two sets of oars and two sweep oars.
By April 1, the new boat was nearing completion and, in the words of publicity officer Jack Beatty, ‘should be ready for the plonk breaking’ evening. He also hoped that Captain ‘Itchy’ Hearne would not ‘go down the mine’ on the launch day.
Jack needn’t have worried, the launch was a great success both as a social occasion and a publicity event. The Sun of 2 July noted that the launch of the new boat, named the ‘Wally Proudfoot’ in ‘memory of one of the most courageous surf swimmers Australia has known’ would be launched that afternoon.
The Committee had worked well and one of the largest crowds ever assembled at South Narrabeen, including members of the Proudfoot family, attended. The crowd also included Mr. and Mrs. Curlewis, with representatives from Warringah Shire Council, North Narrabeen and Collaroy Clubs.
Mrs Tannock officiated at the launch, and broke the traditional bottle of champagne over the bow of the Wally Proudfoot after which the boat was pushed into the surf for the first time. The crowd watched in interest.
Jack Beatty noted: The ’Wally Proudfoot’ was everything that the club had anticipated and the members were justifiably proud when this superbly built, constructed and beautifully finished boat was pushed into the surf for the first time.
Imagine the feelings of watching members when the inexperienced crew caught a big wave on the way in! Much to everyone’s relief they managed to hold it and bring the ‘Wally Proudfoot’ safely back to the beach.
After this success, the official party retired to the clubhouse for another glass of champagne (donated by McWilliams Winery) and tea. The President of North Narrabeen, Mr. Barnes, presented a canvas boat cover to South Narrabeen, to protect the new boat.
Despite the best efforts of Mrs. Tannock, funds were still short. Bob Le Clerc and others organized a Fancy Fair over Christmas. A ‘substantial’ profit was then realised and this was enough ‘to pay the outstanding balance of the boat account and to purchase some other essential requirements’
The acquisition and launch of the Wally Proudfoot was another popular success for South Narrabeen. The Club had a new boat, built to the most modern design, and it had added to its reputation as an enterprising organisation. This success was still being celebrated many years later, when the story of the acquisition and launch of the surf boat was reproduced in Surf in Australia in 1947 as an example for other clubs to follow.