Shop Small, Shop Local at Bondi Icebergs Club

Operating out of one of Sydney’s most famous landmarks is a club that is for the brave of spirit and body, writes Elizabeth Meryment. Presented in partnership with American Express.

Members of Bondi Icebergs Club have a saying they like to share with new members.

“We’re the hardest club in Australia to get into, and the easiest to get thrown out of.”

So explains the club’s secretary manager Kerrie Brien, reaffirming the notion that this is one club that’s not for the faint of heart.

This year the swimming club that operates throughout winter at the landmark Bondi Beach ocean pool celebrates its 90th anniversary. That’s 90 years of icy cold winter swims, 90 years of club dinners and 90 years of mateship among diehard club members.

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“It’s all about mateship here,” says Brien. “We have an ethos of always being there to help out mates. Some of the men in this club have been coming here for 40 and 50 years, and a lot of them come for the friendship.”

Many people would be unaware that Bondi Icebergs Club operates like any other sporting club (for instance, golf or bowls clubs), with members compelled to turn up on regulation. Rules state members must swim three Sundays a month between May and September, for five years before they gain full membership. This equates to 75 swims in five years (members can be granted leave for some circumstances).

Swimmers also must compete in weekly timed handicap races across 40 and 50 metres, and younger swimmers (known as “ice cubes”) compete in aged championships.

With the water temperature often dipping to a chilly 15 degrees in the middle of the year, it would be tempting to stay in bed rather than get up to swim outdoors. Nevertheless, there are 900 members, including 110 honorary life members who have met the rules for 40 or more continuous years.

For the less brave, there’s also a social club membership, which grants access to the pool and the club bistro, an icon in its own right that serves up to 1000 meals a day — mostly seafood in theme, from seafood platters to fish and chips served alongside icy cold beers with the best views in the world — during summer months. Visitors are welcome and the pool is open to the public for a fee that includes showers and entry to the legendary poolside sauna.

Brien says Icebergs has a rich history, having formed in 1929 as a men’s-only swimming club, despite the pool having been a female-only reserve earlier in its history. Women were only admitted in 1995.

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“Back in the old days, because Bondi was very different 20, 30, 40 years ago to how it is today, it was a very hard area,” Brien says. “It was a place of wharfies and labourers, and full of, as they used to say, scoundrels, thieves and conmen.

“But now we have a huge range of people from all walks of life, from truck drivers to CEOs of big businesses. Everybody is equal on the pool deck.”

Bondi Icebergs Club

1 Notts Ave, Bondi Beach

icebergs.com.au