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History of the Australian Surf Rowers League (ASRL)

The Start – International League of Rowers (ILOR)

In the early 1990’s, a group of committed surfboat sweeps was very concerned that surfboats were being left out of the SLSA competition promotional picture. During the 80’s, SLSA with the help of Kelloggs, had heavily promoted the Ironmen into a televised series of events. In the early 90’s, the Uncle Tobys company decided to challenge the dominance of the Kellogg’s Ironman Series with the introduction of a competing Uncle Toby’s Series, which was also going to be televised. Uncle Tobys made approaches and wanted to include Surfboats, but this was being blocked by SLSA.

ASRL IncThe League advised SLSA that if it produced a signed contract within seven days,  surfboats would not compete in the Uncle Toby’s series.


SLSA failed to produce the contract. 

The first Uncle Toby’s event in 1993 was held at Surfers Paradise and twenty four crews, mainly from Queensland, but some interstaters including Point Lonsdale and Manly also competed.  Following that first event, the crews which competed in event two stayed with the series for the entire four years. 

The members of those crews which competed at Surfers Paradise were cited to appear before an SLSA disciplinary committee in Brisbane charged with ‘conduct unbecoming’.  The charges were dismissed.  

Other court action followed in the Federal Court in New South Wales when an Uncle Tobys crew was prevented from rowing in a NSW Premiership event.  The case was upheld and costs awarded against SLSA NSW. 

ASRL IncThe Uncle Toby’s crews continued to race that year against intimidation and threats by SLSA.  State officials were detailed to attend Uncle Toby’s events and take the names of crews and rowers competing. 

The crews competed in the Uncle Toby’s series for four seasons with twelve of the thirteen semi-finalists at Kurrawa 1995 being Uncle Toby’s crews.  


The inaugural President was Ron Payne 1994-1995, followed by Ron Kelly (1996-1997), Peter ‘Grub’ Grant (1998-2001); Rick Millar (2002-2005); Bob Stone (2006) and Bert Hunt (2007-     ) 

Greg Davies was Secretary from 1993 to 2008.  

Vice Presidents have included, Matt Clymer, Zom Knox (1993-2007),  Stephen Blewett (1993-2005, 2007-      ), Charles Melloy, Don Cotterill, Dick Olesinski, Andrew Goss, and recently Tim Nesbitt and Geoff Matthews. 

At a Special General General Meeting held at Mosman on 20 July, 1997, at the instigation of President Peter ‘Grub’ Grant the name of the League was changed to Australian Surf Rowers League (ASRL) and it has remained.

The League conducted its first Open in 1997 at Terrigal followed by:

1998     Dee Why
1999     Ocean Beach
2000     Ocean Grove
2001     Fingal Bay
2002     Scarboro
2003     Lorne
2004     South Port
2005     Wollongong
2006     Bilgola/Newport
2007     Lorne
2008     Stockton
2009     Broulee

The first Interstate Challenge was held at South Port and is the only event on the calendar where surfboat competition alone decides the best surfboat State in Australia.  All racing divisions are included in the Interstate Championship with the ‘Fillies’ being included for the first time in 2007 at Lorne.

Victoria won at the Interstate Championship at South Port and New South Wales has won each year since.

Click HERE to read all about the history of Surf Boats in Australia 

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