Sunday, 3 March 2013

Is March Past a Sport??

So we’re sitting in the pub last night and they’ve got golf playing on the big screen TV on the wall and someone says, “golf’s great, but it’s not really a sport is it.”

Someone else goes, “rubbish, golf so IS a sport.”

First guy says: “Yeah I get that it takes a lot of skill and that, but it’s not like it gets you puffing, or you need to be fit or anything.”
And so commenced a long argument about what does and doesn’t constitute a ‘sport’.

“But what about stuff like darts? I mean that’s not really a sport, but you need to practice heaps to be good.”
“What about the Welsh and their Bog Snorkelling?”

“Yeah, or thong throwing?”

And then of course, someone says, “yeah but it’s like the March Past, it’s not really a sport, but it’s still run in surf lifesaving competitions, more like a traditional thing.”
Our learned colleague nursing the Corona was right of course, the March Past is still a part of surf lifesaving culture and competition, but it raises the question as to whether it should be run separate to the main ‘racing’, especially when time is tight and carnival organisers and officials are already under pressure to get through the packed program at most surf sports events.

Let’s face it, everyone loves a good March Past – the full-length costumes, the bagpipes, the military precision of the moves – what’s not to love?
It’s one of Surf Life Saving’s original events and is supposed to represent the traditional discipline of being a surf lifesaver, marching in time to music, carrying aloft the surf reel, line and belt and following the flag bearer. Teams march in formation following commands and they are judged on factors such as timing, arm and leg swing, space and dressing, body carriage and presentation.

This iconic Surf Life Saving event dates back to the 1920s, but does it still have relevance today?
Many surf lifesaving stalwarts say almost certainly it does.  Before this morning’s March Past, which was a somewhat streamlined event due to the terrible weather conditions, one ‘marcher’ told us: “It’s a very proud occasion for any club to watch their team at a major championship event, and an even prouder feeling to be a part of that team.”

One long-serving official when asked, is March Past a sport, answered: “well I don’t know about it being a sport, but it’s a tradition that we should never lose,” she said.

Many younger competitors and surf lifesavers say it’s a waste of time, looks weird and is definitely not a sport. But surprisingly, the March Past is experiencing somewhat of a resurgence, and particularly among the younger members of surf life saving.

On Umina Beach today, there were 20 clubs contesting the junior March Past event, despite the weather and disruptions to the program. Some of these teams take their ‘sport’ very seriously too, practising 3 or 4 times a week in the lead up to the State Championships.
If these kids and adults get to enjoy the camaraderie of being in a team, working toward achieving a common goal and perfecting a skill, maybe that’s reason enough to keep it a key part of carnival competition?

So we’ve put it out there. What do you reckon? Sport or not? You’re welcome to put forward the case for thong throwing if you disagree…


  1. Needless to say after being told to have U9s at Umina at 7.30 (after waiting all the previous day) and to get there and be told that they would now be after march past doesn't bode well with my view point of march past.

    It is definately not a sport.

    It's a march past just the same as the those that take place for the Anzac day ceremonies and you don't see anyone calling those a sport.

    Maybe there should be a march past day or something, but I think it's outdated and simply delays any carnival that's usually battling against weather / water conditions.

    The reality is that there were only 20 teams there yesterday, 20. There's probably that many clubs on Sydney Northern Beaches let alone in the whole of NSW.

    The fact that clubs "have to" enter a march past team or at least a colour party or risk disqualification is like a form of blackmail and forcing clubs to do something they clearly don't want to do, remember 20 teams whole of NSW.

    1. March Past is a wonderful tradition of surf life saving. If you have ever watched your club compete at this event you would probably understand. There is a lot of skill and precision required to be competitive at this event. Many of the teams practise 2 or 3 times a week. Much like any sport you need to be dedicated and put the time in to get results. You may also not realise that alot of the kids & Adults that compete in this event also compete on the boards, swim or sprint.

  2. March Past is a way to say - 'hey this is MY club'. At what other time do we gather together to reflect on Surf Lifesaving and our own individual Clubs input into what we are really about - saving lives. Being on the beach as a club with the aim of 'no lives lost between our flags'. Carnivals are a great way to put the skills we need to save lives to the test but we should never never lose sight of our purpose. And March Past is such an event to proudly say this.