HAVING weathered a few storms, the iconic Bondi Icebergs Club is entering a new era ahead of its 90th birthday in less than two years.
The club, where the Iceberg members famously swim races every Sunday throughout winter, lost its president, David Hall, to cancer late last month, and until recently, was saddled with a 40-year loan, following the massive upgrade to its crumbling building in 2002.
Arguably Australia’s most iconic ocean pool, the Bondi Baths is listed under the NSW Heritage Act and is part of the National Heritage register, the venue for fashion parades and photo shoots, TV shows and commercials. The Icebergs complex beside the pool houses one of Sydney’s best restaurants.
“The Icebergs is like church, people are very accepting of who you are,” said fourth generation Bondi resident and Iceberg of eight years, Annie Parnell.
“It’s an incredible bunch of people from 80-plus year olds right down to the little ones.”
“Swimming in the ocean, in the pool, invigorates you. You feel so alive, you feel that the world is a beautiful place. It’s a very healing thing,” added Parnell, who works in the film industry, and whose father was an Iceberg also.
Waverley Mayor Sally Betts sums it up: “When you talk about the club, it’s like the heart of Bondi and of Waverley.
“It’s the essence of what Bondi is, there are young and old people, and nobody stands on ceremony.
“You’ve got to be quite tough of course, because the water can be quite cold, and when the waves come crashing in it can be challenging.
“The soul and essence of the club shows what Bondi is all about and what Waverley is all about.
“It’s the most amazing thing, if you want to take an overseas visitor out to dinner, and you take them to the club, they are astounded that you have a club where the food is good and relatively cheap, and you have this amazing view.”
But back in the late 1990s, the club’s outlook wasn’t so rosy. Its finances were shaky and its building was falling apart.
The club, which started in 1929, upgraded from a tin shed to actual premises in 1960, the same year it gained a liquor licence. It expanded over two floors a decade later.
A massive renovation in the early 2000s changed the course of the club’s history, with the new four-storey premises opening in 2002.
A “facilitation fee” that was effectively a 40-year loan from the developer, Warpo Pty Ltd, was paid off in late 2016, in less than half the allocated time, meaning this is the first time the club has been debt free since the 2002 renovation.
The board appointed an interim president, Benn Dullard, last week, ahead of the annual general meeting later this year where all positions will be up for grabs.