Everyone said she was crazy, everyone said she couldn’t do it, but Olivia Sclater is the one who’s laughing now.

The kitchen at Seaspray Surf Life Savings Club (SSLSC) has been dormant since the beginning of COVID.

What once was the place to be, drawing folks from far and wide, helping transform the streets of Seaspray into a bustling coastal getaway, quickly became desolate – until now.

Olivia Sclater is dedicated to breathing life back into Seaspray. Photos: Zoe Askew

Twenty-five-year-old Olivia Sclater, a hospitality veteran with extensive local and international experience, with fond memories of summers in Seaspray, took on the challenge to reignite the magic at the SSLSC despite persistent misgivings from those around her.

“I started working here [SSLSC ] last year, just to make some extra dosh while I’m still studying,” Ms Sclater said.

“Normally, the bistro is rented out to someone, and essentially the surf club couldn’t find anyone to do that.

“I went away, travelled overseas for a bit, and when I came back, they were still struggling.”

Ms Sclater returned from her travels earlier this year and was told of the bistro’s ongoing difficulties, particularly in recruiting chefs, after speaking with SSLSC president Chris Fleming.

Call it a twist of fate, divine intervention or perhaps a good old-fashioned stroke of luck.

It just so happened that on her recent international venture, Ms Sclater befriended two English chefs, Sam Valentine and Kevin Douglass Ortega.

Seaspray Surf Life Saving Club’s newest management team Sam Valentine, Olivia Sclater and Kevin Douglas Ortega.

“When I was living overseas, we worked together, and we talked about how they wanted to come over to Australia,” Ms Sclater explained.

“Kevin has been here for about two months, and Sam got here a week before we opened the kitchen – that was super stressful.

“As much as we’ve done everything in hospitality, we’ve never launched a business before, so it was like we know what we’re doing, but we kind of don’t.”

Ms Sclater, SSLSC general manager, Mr Valentine and Mr Ortega, the newly appointed head chefs, officially opened the kitchen on September 23, serving 210 meals in their first weekend.

“Getting it all together, bringing staff on, understanding ordering and how much you need to cover 200 odd people was a lot (to organise),” Ms Sclater said.

“I think we did alright in the end though.”

Friday, October 14, through Sunday, October 16, was the first weekend the SSLSC was not completely booked out since the kitchen’s reopening.

With the SSLSC struggling to recruit members, Yips and Nippers, which is impacting patrols and causing beach issues, the club is banking on the success of the newly-launched kitchen to reconnect the 66-year-old club and the local community.

“Now that they have decided to do this themselves as opposed to renting the business out, it means that all the money does filter back into the surf club,” Ms Sclater said.

“Having us [Miss Sclater, Mr Valentine and Mr Ortega] here is about bringing some money in for the club but also breathing some life back into the place, with us being quite young.

“We have brought a lot of people back in.

“There has already been a lot of interest and a lot of young people, like all our staff are 21 and below, which is what the club really wanted.

“They are really struggling to get lifesavers, nippers, people through the ranks to essentially take over and look after the club.

“So what we wanted was to put some life back into it, put some youth back into it, get some kids in here, get the locals in here and really open it back up again.”

Seaspray Surf Life Saving Club balcony with ocean views. Photos: Zoe Askew

SSLSC’s success is just as meaningful to Ms Sclater for other, more personal reasons.

“This is only temporary as I am about to change my career completely, I am about to become a teacher, so this is my last gig in hospitality,” she said.

“So this has been such a nice ending to 12 years in hospitality.

“Me, Kev and Sam walked out of the pub we worked at in England because it was so horrific, they were so horrible and nasty to us.

“And I love that I now get to have this last hoorah that is this business I get to make myself and set the tone for,” she said.

“Really set a culture and dynamic where everyone comes in and is happy and comfortable.”

Entrance to the beach from the SSLSC.

Not only is Ms Sclater’s latest hospitality gig her last, making SSLSC’s success all the more special, but proving all the cynics who told her she couldn’t do it is like the cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae.

“When I started it, so many people were like, ‘you’re crazy, it’s not going to work, it’s going to be awful’”, Miss Sclater said.

“The things that people were saying about it were pretty much like, run.

“I was like, no, there is something here that definitely can be done; there is a community here that is like tough and beautiful in the same way.

“I have such a soft spot for this place; I have always had a soft spot for Seaspray because I am such an ocean girl, I just always want to be by it, and having made something out of this venue after so many people said I couldn’t, I’m just a bit like ‘hell yeah’.”

Summer is just around the corner, and SSLSC management team has lots installed for Seaspray throughout the season of sun.

Seaspray Surf Life Saving Club lawns with a front row ticket to an ocean view. Photos: Zoe Askew

December welcomes the arrival of a hypnotist, the commencement of band rotations, boasting live music from either a band or DJ every Saturday night with a shuttle bus to and from Sale in the works for ease of transport, and Sunday sippers with live acoustics to really set the atmosphere.

“It is a sick venue”, Ms Sclater said, “summer here could be amazing”.

“When I was a kid, and the caravan park was along the foreshore, we used to stay here for like a month or so, we were a Seaspray caravan park family, and they used to do all of this stuff, put bands on, they would run buses, it was mayhem, and now there is just nothing.

“It is time to get that back in.”