Melbourne boardriding club charts new territory in the wave pool world

One of the great things with wave pools popping up all over the world is, as a journalist, being able to connect with many people from various walks of life who share a common passion/obsession.

And then you meet folks who’re outgoing and to put it mildly, more enthusiastic than Tony Robbins on uppers. What tall Tony is to life-affirmation, Brit-now-Aussie Simon Ashford is to surfing. 

Based in Melbourne, Simon’s in his fifties and should be well into his grumpy the-swells-were-better-years-ago stage of his surfing life. But oh-no, not Simon. He’s too busy with surf coaches and jumping on surf skates, intent on improving and learning. 

And when he’s not indulging in surf self-improvement he’s online starting a wave pool boardrider club which is focussed on inclusivity and is suitable for everyone from grom’s to grannies of all abilities. What’s next? Leading the U.N?

But let’s get a bit of background on this benevolent Brit-turned-Aussie…

Urbnsurfers Melbourne wave pool boardriders club
The UrbnSurf Boardriders club – no shortage of excitement and stoke. Image courtesy UrbnSurfers Melbourne

How did you get into surfing Simon?

I originally started surfing in North Devon in the UK around 14 years old. I didn’t have a wetsuit and my first board was borrowed from a friend of older brothers. It was a battered old single fin that I think half the village was using. I went in to become a professional surf lifeguard in the UK & Australia. I did water safety for the Coke Classic in Bondi in 1990. I also worked in the surf industry as a designer. 

Why did you decide to start a boardriders at Urbnsurf?

Firstly I am a proud Foundation Member. After my first surf in December 2019 before the pool officially opened in Jan 2020, I felt that I wanted to be part of setting a positive culture at Urbnsurf. It had resurrected my surfing which had taken a backseat to my career. I’d increasingly found that surf beaches had become unwelcoming places. Particularly as you get older and slower. I had lived on the Gold Coast for around 10 years and had developed a dislike for the toxic masculine culture in the lineup. I quickly saw that the Urbnsurf lineup was very welcoming and inclusive and I wanted to be part of that.

I came to Australia and settled in Melbourne in 1994. I got involved with Surfrider Foundation during that time to meet like-minded people to go surfing with. I’d also been struggling for a few years to stay interested in surfing. Having focused on a career, and other pursuits such as playing music. 

Urbnsurf was the perfect environment for me to find my stoke again. After my first session, which was a foundation member pre-opening half-day, I realized I was going to have to make some drastic lifestyle changes. At 22 lbs/10kg overweight, sluggish, and inflexible, I instantly gave up alcohol and became a vegetarian. In the two years since my surfing has dramatically improved. I am feeling pretty fit and am looking forward to getting better and fitter. I can honestly say that Urbnsurf has changed my life!

wave pool boardriders club UrbnSurf Boardriders
Jaz Felsinger joined the UrbnSurf Boardriders along with other dedicated Melbournites. Image courtesy UrbnSurfers Melbourne

So how did the UrbnSurf Boardriders club come about?

I set up the UrbnSurf Boardriders FB group in December 2019 and it very quickly took off. I’ve recruited other admins, with many women too, because I didn’t want it to be exclusively my group. And it was such a positive thing during our numerous Covid lockdowns in Melbourne. The banter kept us all connected and feeling positive. Most of us couldn’t even get to the ocean.

In mid-2021, Urbnsurf announced the establishment of the official UrbnSurf Boardriders. While they were very happy for the original group to remain, I changed the name to UrbnSurfers Melbourne to avoid confusion. It also leaves room for UrbnSurfers Sydney, etc, as more pools are developed.

The UrbnSurf Boardriders Club (Official) is still taking shape. Covid stops and starts have been a factor. And every paid-up Member of Urbn is automatically a Boardriders member. Though it’s possible to join and not be an Urbn Member.

We’ve had several members nights, a winter club comp, and recently a summer barrel shoot-out. We also hosted and competed in the Australian Boardriders Battle Victorian round. There’s yet to be a proper committee in place. So far it’s been driven by James Miles and the Urbnsurf team. They are keen for us to take the reins in 2022.

Wouldn’t you join the UrbnSurfers Boardriders club for consistent access to THIS?!? Image courtesy UrbnSurfers Melbourne

How is the Boardriders Club different from others around the world?

It’s a curious prospect and different from any other boardriders club in so much as we are custodians of a brand, whereas other board riders clubs are based around coastal locations. There is a responsibility to look after and represent the Urbnsurf brand appropriately.

Currently, we have just over 2800 members on the UrbnSurfers Melbourne (FB Group), as well as 2 Women’s World Champions, Pam Burridge and Pauline Menczer. It’s hilarious when they chime in on the FB chat. It freaks people out. Josh Kerr is also in the group.

The majority are Melbourne based but there are healthy numbers around Australia as well as some scattered around the world. One of the things UrbnSurfers Melbourne members enjoy is being able to sell or purchase sessions. Also, there is some board swapping going on.

By the numbers;
7% female 96% male
13% of members are 18 – 24yo
27% of members are 25 – 34yo
30% of members are 35 – 44yo
20% of members are 45 – 54yo
5% of members are 55 – 64yo

Urbnsurfers Melbourne wave pool boardriders club Mark Mono Stewart
Adaptive surfing champ Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart is a regular. Image courtesy UrbnSurfers Melbourne

How do you attract beginner and mid-level surfers? And people who’ve never been put on a contest vest?

Well, that’s the next challenge and will be the focus of the next competition. It’ll be on the new Cruiser Turns setting and alternative surf craft encouraged. Twin fins, Mini Simmons, etc.

The beauty of Urbnsurf is that you can predict the conditions. And people can train and prepare for those conditions. I’m a very average surfer and would encourage anyone to just give it a go. Nobody is particularly competitive or judgmental at UrbnSurf Boardriders. The adage that the best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun is very true. Maybe we should develop a way of measuring stoke!

Simon Ashford of the Urbnsurf Boardriders Club
Club spearhead Simon Ashford. Image courtesy UrbnSurfers Melbourne

Editor’s note:

The group is Urbnsurfers Melbourne. The official name for the surf park is URBNSURF (yes in all caps like they’re yelling.) Urbnsurf Boardriders is the official entity. For editorial style guidelines, WavePoolMag refers to the company as Urbnsurf as we would any other proper noun and rarely, if ever, use ALL CAPS.