Address by Brian Mooney, Club President, at the Over 45 Social Canoe Club, Inc 25th Anniversary Celebration on 4 June 2021 at Maylands Yacht Club
Hello paddlers. It is almost time for to cut the cake to commemorate the Club’s 25th anniversary. 25 years—that is a significant milestone and I believe it’s important to not only celebrate these occasions but also to reflect how we got to this point. So, let us consider a little history and try to relate it to the present. I like the saying by American poet Maya Angelou: ‘If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.’
The Club began in 1996 as an initiative of the Seniors Recreational Council of WA with the stated goal of “forming another senior canoe club to increase senior’s access to the sport”. These are not my words; they are from the records. Note that there are three mentions of seniors in that sentence; I will come back to that.
Like all good initiatives this started out as a project: the Davenwood Canoe Project named, apparently, after the now defunct Davenwood Canoe business. I am postulating that the idea for another club—ours—came jointly from the Seniors Council and the Davenwood owners with the added aim of selling more canoes. I wonder if they would be happy with what they inspired.
On 30 April 1996 at a meeting of the steering committee the project morphed into what is now the Over 45 Social Canoe Club. At that meeting a number of decisions were taken. I would like to talk about five of those decisions because they influenced the current character of the Club. I believe that the steering committee did a fantastic job in establishing the fundamentals of the Club.
The first decision of the meeting was to, quote “form a social, casual canoeing club in a non-competitive environment” unquote. Note that the first word there is “social”. Well, we seemed to have nailed that aspect—I cannot imagine this club being any more social: we have, to list them, chats on the water and at picnic lunches after paddling, coffee stops, anniversary celebrations and Christmas lunches, restaurant dinners and travel nights and camps. The older, ex-paddlers even have lunches from time to time. Real friendships have been made in this Club. Kanani and I feel privileged and grateful to be part of this wonderful, friendly environment.
The other words from that quote “Casual and non-competitive” are still basic features of the club. They differentiate us from the other clubs, who race. Now, to those words I would add that we challenge ourselves on the water and we emphasise safety. The casual nature of the Club has to be balanced with safety needs and I believe we have to be very conscious that one doesn’t dominate the other—not too casual but not too regimented either. Challenging ourselves in different conditions and places usually makes us better paddlers and, I believe being a better paddler is a key to being safe. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we’re non-competitive but imagine trying to take the competitive streak out of some of our members; Kevin Russell comes to mind. And our most prevalent dread—FOMO: fear of missing out—is borne of competition. It is all part of the balancing act.
The second decision was the name of the club. Interesting choice of name given what I mentioned earlier about the emphasis on seniors. We have two members in their forties and another two members in their fifties. We are very glad to have them however I’m not sure they’d like to be called seniors. Terry McCartney tried to explain to me one night at Mandurah why the name Over 45s was chosen and from memory it had something to do with the Over 55 name already being taken. Kanani once irreverently suggested we be referred to as the “Way Over 45s” but we let her become a member anyway. Now, I’d like you to think about your own life when you were 45. In my case, it was in 1996, the same year the Club started. I was living in Melbourne, up to my eyeballs in my banking career, with four kids between 15 and nine. I once bravely suggested to Neville, when he was President, that we introduce a new criterion for continued Club membership: that you had to be able to remember when you were 45. Some of you might not qualify—you know who you are. Anyway, Neville immediately squashed that idea on the grounds he could not remember and would have to resign. So, we are a mature Club, in more ways than one. The average age of club paddlers, by my calculations, is 68. Sadly, I fall on the wrong side of that number. The list of members includes five actively paddling octogenarians to balance the younger members. One of those octogenarians, Terry McCartney, has done 914 recorded Club paddles, so far. All I can really say about the name of the Club is that we are pleased we can attract some younger people and that we are inclusive and welcoming for as long as members feel they are able to paddle.
The third decision was to paddle on Fridays. That is another cornerstone of our Club. I feel that for many of you, paddling on Fridays is a highlight of your week. Too bad if Christmas and New Year’s Day falls on a Friday—we paddle!
The fourth decision was the annual fee for members. It was set at ten dollars, largely to cover indemnity insurance, with a weekly fee if you paddled. The decision was taken in the spirit of keeping costs down for members down and that meant personal insurance cover was up to individual members—that costs a lot more than ten dollars. Implicit also in that decision is that paddlers are required to accept responsibility for their personal safety. Those insurance and personal responsibility positions still apply, as much now as they did at the beginning, and are imbedded in the constitution and by-laws. Keeping costs affordable for all members is still an undocumented goal of the club. We commend our social officers for their efforts to arrange affordable events.
The fifth decision, on canoes, is less a building block of the club but shows what was required to get the club up and running. The Club initially hired some canoes for paddle events and then acquired six aluminium, double Canadians, and a trailer to carry them. Three canoes bought for $101 each and three were donated—all came from Tone River, an old timber mill town near Manjimup. A club member was required to tow them to the launch location each week. Four people were needed to take each canoe off the trailer. The asset register from that time records the condition of each canoe and shows four of the six as “needing repair”, with two having cracked hulls, one a broken rib and the other a minor leak. Of course, some members in the early days of the club had their own kayaks. Early Club minutes record a discussion where the B Group was to be asked to slow down because the Canadians could not keep up with the other paddlers. Fortunately, we have come a long way since those days with almost all craft being singles and heavy aluminium canoes giving way to modern skis and kayaks including super lightweight Kevlar and carbon composite models.
In those early days, the Club had to proactively recruit new members. There was success. By the end of 1996 there were 20 members, by the AGM in July 1997 there were 36. After a few years there had to be a cap put on membership, mainly because at some of our launching sites there is limited parking. Excess demand brought about the Tuesday Leisure paddlers spin-off and an on and off cap over the years. The maximum number under the current cap is 95 and we have around eight on the waiting list. In that respect we are a successful club—we are popular.
So, that is where we’ve come from. As I said earlier, I believe that the steering committee did a fantastic job in establishing the basis of the Club. But that is enough history for now. The development of week-long and weekend camps is a special subject but will have to wait for another occasion. Stories about frequent duck-hat winners and other club characters are for another place and time.
One of the popular traditions in the Club is celebrating birthdays with cake. We have been curtailed a bit from that over the last year, but it is fitting this anniversary be marked with a cake. Thank you again, Mavonny, for making it. I am pleased to invite one of the very early members of the Club, Sonja Pryor, to cut the cake. Sonja joined in 1997, was Vice President from 2006 to 2008 and was on the committee for at least four other years. The records show that she paddled 603 times before she stopped in 2018. She remains an Associate Member and is a regular at Club social functions with her husband Fred. For me, she epitomises the nature of the people in the Club—welcoming, sociable, and keen to paddle. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Sonja.