Mar 17, 2017
The 1942/43 surf season marked the inaugural running of the Stan McDonald Relay, a twenty person-a-side surf relay between Bondi and North Bondi surf clubs. The race is now in its seventy-fifth consecutive year and is one of Australian sports most revered rivalries.
Stan McDonald, head lifeguard on Bondi Beach, and also commonly regarded as ‘The King of Bondi,’ initiated the relay between the two clubs in an attempt to enhance camaraderie between North and South. Stan was a member of both clubs and devoted 47 years of his life to the service of visitors to Bondi Beach.
In 1933, Stan retired as a beach inspector and began the family business. Mac’s Beach Hire provided deck chairs, umbrellas, surfoplanes, surf boards, and oil spraying to swimmers and sunbathers.
Stan McDonald passed away in 1959 at age 77. Stan’s son Basil took over the family business. Basil McDonald soon became known as ‘Mr Bondi’ and was a legend in his own right.
Basil joined Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club at age fifteen and would eventually become a President, Patron and Life Member. He was also a life member of the Bondi Amateur Men’s Swimming Club, The Union of Old Swimmers, Bondi Icebergs Club, and the Bondi Junior S.L.S.C of which he was founding President. The Sydney Morning Herald noted Basil as one of the “men who have been mentioned officially for acts of bravery in risking their lives in raging surf to save drowning people” on the infamous Black Sunday in 1938, where five people drowned.
In the 1986/87 season, upon Basil’s passing, The Great Race was renamed the Stan and Basil McDonald Memorial Relay.
For those reading this who have never been present at The Great Race, you may not understand where the magic lies. For those who have watched or swum The Great Race, you understand what words cannot describe.
–Nick Nezval, Stan & Basil McDonald Relay Captain
A history of the Stan Mac Relay