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Our history



Our History

Surf Life Saving has always been Australian for life.

When Australians decided to embrace the ocean as a site of active recreation in the early part of the 20th century, our love of the beach emerged. The need for a lifesaving movement - to protect and save lives – grew, and from that day onwards, Surf Life Saving became part of the fabric of our country.  

View our timeline to see the development of the Surf Life Saving movement – from the first lifesaving equipment on Bondi Beach in 1907, to becoming the largest volunteer movement of it’s kind in the world. Or to see our history unfold in images, view our slideshow.

How Surf Life Saving was formed

Australia’s first volunteer surf life saving clubs appeared on Sydney’s ocean beaches in 1907.  By-laws which had banned bathing in daylight hours since the 1830s were gradually repealed between 1902 and 1905, in response to the increasing popularity of surf-bathing, and a growing conviction that bathing in appropriate clothing was not an immoral act. 

The impact these changes had on local beach culture was dramatic: beachgoers entered the surf in rapidly escalating numbers.  The surf was new to most surf-bathersand many could not swim, so with its increasing popularity came more drowning and consequent attempts at rescue. 

By the summer of 1906-07, the population of Sydney was obsessed with the question of the safety of the surf.  It was in this environment that surf life saving clubs first emerged, their regular patrols a welcome relief to local authorities and nervous bathers alike. 

On 18 October 1907, representatives from these clubs, together with members of other interested groups, met to form the Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales, the organisation now known as Surf Life Saving Australia.