Granny Grommets find friendship, fun and fitness as they hit the waves in Newcastle

Granny Grommets find friendship, fun and fitness as they hit the waves in Newcastle
  • PublishedJune 25, 2024

As the sun peeks through the clouds, a group of laughing women meet at a popular beach in Newcastle.

They call themselves the Newy Granny Grommets and are among the surfers and joggers who frequent Nobby’s Beach on a Friday morning.

Now in her 60s, Kate Lobb started the group when she realised there wasn’t a place for the older generation to catch the foamies together on their boogie boards.

A woman with grey hair, wearing a wetsuit and sitting on sandy beach.
Kate Lobb is the founder of the Newy Granny Grommets.(ABC News: Jesmine Cheong)

“We used to do it when we were teenagers, and then I hadn’t done it until I started doing it with my granddaughter,” she said.

“It was so much fun that I thought I should try to do it by myself, but I was never game to just go out by myself, so I thought if I got a group together it would be fun.”

Two women on beach with two kids, wearing colourful hats and bathing suits
Kate Lobb (centre front) when she was a child visiting a beach with her family.(Supplied: Kate Lobb)

The retired teacher said the benefits of being outdoors in the fresh air, meeting new people and having fun were really important for older people.

So when she read an ABC article on the Granny Grommets of Western Australia’s south, it inspired Mrs Lobb to start a similar group in Newcastle.

‘Just have a go’

Mrs Lobb says the group, which recruits women through social media and word of mouth, has widened her social circle in her community. 

“I just think it’s great to open up your mind to different things,” she said.

“Have a go and if you don’t like it, doesn’t matter, just have a go.”

With rising cost-of-living pressures, she believes free and relaxed social groups are beneficial for the older generation.

“I think it’s important that we’re out there … what’s good about this group, it doesn’t cost people anything,” she said.

“There’s a lot of people who want to get out and do things that might not have the money.

“This is easy, this is just fun and I think it’s really important to talk to other people in the community, different people that you haven’t met before.”

Never too old

Despite being dumped by the waves, Granny Grommet Fiona Clark is determined to paddle out every week.

Older woman in blue wetsuit on boogie board.
Fiona Clark says surfing skills are not required to join the group.(ABC News: Jesmine Cheong)

“I’m not quite 100 yet, but you’ve got to watch out for the strength in your bones … it is a cardio workout,” she said.

“I’m now taking calcium tablets just in case I break anything.

“As you get older and you do this type of stuff, not a lot of people do it.”

Two black and white collage pictures young girl in water and baby in water.
Fiona Clark has loved being at the beach since she was a toddler. (Supplied: Fiona Clark)

The 61-year-old grew up riding waves in Sydney, and believes anyone can pick up a board.

“I’ve spoken to quite a number of ladies that I’ve told about the Newy Granny Grommets and they go, ‘I don’t know if I could do something like that’,” Ms Clark said.

“Once the word starts to build, people will be going, ‘I might go and try that’, because you’ve got nothing to lose.

“It’s not all about skills, it’s just kind of getting together with a nice group of ladies.”

Mental health benefits

While she only moved to Newcastle three years ago, Ms Clark believes there is something special about the city’s beach culture.

Elderly woman in blue wetsuit holding boogie board.
Fiona Clark has been living in Newcastle for the past three years.(ABC News: Jesmine Cheong)

“Everyone kind of gravitates down to the water … it’s just endless what everyone does,” she said.

“I think it’s just part of the culture in the city — that’s what makes it so beautiful.”

This connection to the local beach culture resonates with Libby Maskey, who has strong roots in Newcastle 

Woman with grey hair wearing green shirt and scarf, smiling.
Libby Maskey has lived in Merewether her whole life.(ABC News: Jesmine Cheong)

“I’ve grown up in Merewether all my life and the beach, we’ve got so much to give here,” she said.

“I just love the water, I go back to the Surf-O-Plane days …  back in the 60s.”

Although she doesn’t surf with the Granny Grommets every week, Mrs Maskey said just visiting the beach was good for people’s mental health.

Elderly woman with grey hair in colourful poncho, talking to two other women.
The Newy Granny Grommets meet at a popular beach in Newcastle every Friday morning.(ABC News: Jesmine Cheong)

“The fresh air, the amazing people … you wouldn’t see this from your bedroom,” she said.

“It’s just amazing … you forget everything else.

“You just concentrate on looking at the scenery and just absorbing life.”


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