Origins of Surf Life Saving Clubs

Origins of Surf Life Saving Clubs

The History

‘Vigilance and Service’ is a saying known to all Life Saver’s throughout Australia. It is the Surf Life Saving's motto and hasn’t changed since the very first day the Association was formed in 1907. Without a doubt, this motto applies as much as it does today, as it did back then.

Many consider the history and existence of Surf Life Saving, to be ingrained within Australia’s very history, starting with its beginnings in the 1870s as a variety of separate Sydney Life Saving Clubs and brigades. Since then, Surf Life Saving has over 100,000 thousand members spread out in over 260 Clubs throughout Australia, with the majority located in NSW, QLD and Victoria.

The formation of Surf Life Saving Australia is, rather strangely, associated with the particular actions of a Mr. William Gocher, who was caught breaking the law by swimming during the prohibited bathing hours, i.e. during daylight, on Manly Beach, NSW, during September in 1902. William was not the only one to break this law, and it was thanks to him and other “rogue” swimmers that swimming, and eventually surfing, became not only a daytime activity, but a part of Australia’s National culture.

In the following years, surfing quickly gained popularity, but a lot of the dangers of it were unknown to a lot of new surfers. In response, various groups of experienced and skilled surfers decided to form lifesaving clubs, dedicated to helping and rescuing people who would quickly find themselves, sometimes unknowingly, at risk in a strange, new environment. These clubs quickly grew as more and more members joined to help protect beachgoers, swimmers and surfers alike. The resulting surge in interested could no longer be sustained without a united front, and thanks to the assistance from Local and State Governments, the New South Wales Surf Bathing Association was formed on the 18th of October, 1907. This would be the first incarnation of the association which would later be known as Surf Life Saving.

Surf Life Saving, in modern times.

Since then, the coastlines and beaches of Australia have been actively promoted as one of the major attractions to both domestic and international tourists, and in response, Surf Life Saving has broadened its responsibilities beyond just water safety and rescue. The job is nothing like it used to be, where a Life Guard’s main job was to keep the public safe and save the odd swimmer, now they’re an officer for public relations, a walking resource of information for beachgoers as well as a public figure for promoting Australian beach culture. Most life savers are also known to participate frequently in any number of beach-related races, competitions and championships.

What it takes to keep the beaches safe…

In order to make and keep the beach as a safe haven requires a lot of effort. Life Savers take patrols of almost all of the accessible beaches, from September to April, with the Life Savers putting in over 500,000 hours of voluntary service, and that’s only in New South Wales.

How can I become a member?

There are many different individual clubs that are part of Surf Life Saving as a whole and the best way to find a local club near you is to search for it on, here you find plenty of additional information on where to find what you’re looking for, as well as contact details and locations.

Join a Surf Life Saving Club near you.

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