Surf lifesaving

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Surf lifesaving is a multifaceted movement that comprises key aspects of voluntary lifeguard services and competitive surf sport. Originating in early 20th century Australia, the movement has expanded globally to other countries including New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and the United States.[1] Surf lifesavers in Australia are colloquially known as "Clubbies".



Surf lifesaving originated in Australia in 1906 in response to drownings at local beaches in Sydney. Such groups became necessary following the relaxing of laws prohibiting daylight bathing on Australian beaches[2]. Volunteer groups of men were trained in life saving methods and patrolled the beaches as lifesavers looking after public safety.

The original surf life saving club is a matter of contention between the Bronte and Bondi beach clubs in Sydney. Bronte Surf Lifesaving Club claims to be the “First Surf Club in the World since 1903”. This is based on minutes of a meeting held in 1907 (found at the local library in 1982), which was noted to be the fourth AGM of the club, as well as a time capsule from 1931 (unearthed during renovations of the club house) in which documents record then President and Gen. Secretary of Surf Lifesaving Australia unanimously declaring Bronte to be the first club. The Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club also claims to be the “world’s first life saving club”. It was officially established on February 21, 1907 at the Royal Hotel in Bondi - as was recorded in the newspaper The East Sydney Argus, and in the Waverley Council Minutes acknowledging receipt of a letter from the newly formed group.

According to current evidence, it may therefore be correct to say Bronte was the 'first' club, but Bondi was the 'first official' club.

Whatever the original club, it is certain that on October 10, 1907 the Surf Bathing Association of NSW (SBANSW) was founded – with 9 clubs and affiliated associations. The first club outside of Sydney was Kiama Surf Bather's Club, founded in 1908.

The Surf Life Saving Great Britain (SLSA GB) organisation was formed in 1955. Volunteer clubs patrolled beaches at Bude and St Agnes in Cornwall and Brighton, their aim to protect, rescue and resuscitate bathers.[3]

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