Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club

No Lives Lost at Bondi Beach

Day: February 21, 2022

115 years of saving lives. Ou

115 years of saving lives.

Our club was formed on the 21st February 1907, with one clear and simple mission – “no lives lost” on Bondi Beach.

Since that time, the club has recorded over 27,732 rescues, and trained 3,851 lifesavers to protect lives.

The concerned group of bathers that met to form the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club would be very proud of the movement that has grown from their first small meeting.


The weekend of 9/10 February was ‘ideal for surf bathing’ and the crowd at Bondi calculated as ‘the largest seen there this summer’. By mid-morning hundreds of bathers were in the surf. Shortly before noon the alarm was raised as two youths struggled with the undertow. A number of bathers pursued the two youths, a rescuer donned the lifeline but the boys were soon beyond its reach. The rescuers had no choice but to discard the lifeline. Eventually they reached the boys and battled their way back through the breakers to the beach. As the crowd gathered around the boys and the rescuers were congratulated another boy approached the group and claimed a third swimmer had been swept out. Other bathers, however, denied the claim. It was only later in the afternoon when police found clothing in the dressing sheds for which there was no claimant that the alarm was again raised. A body was not recovered until the afternoon of the next day.

The clothing in the dressing sheds belonged to 16 year old Reginald Bourne of 75 Underwood Street Paddington who had left home by himself early Sunday morning to have a ‘dip’ at Bondi. The body found by police the following day was positively identified by Bourne’s brother. Because he had been bathing by himself no one had been specifically interested in his whereabouts when the first alarm was raised.

The death of Reginald Bourne only added to the weight of public concern regarding the safety of surf bathing on the beaches of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. News of yet another death at Bondi caused a media sensation. Some community leaders were now convinced that the evidence of the past few months amply demonstrated that Bondi was simply unsafe for surf bathing. The editor of the East Sydney Argus called for a campaign to prohibit surf bathing altogether: ‘Seeing that the loss of lives still continues at Bondi, it is about time surf bathing on that beach was put a stop to’. Bondi’s future as a surf bathing resort stood in the balance.

Shortly before 8pm on the evening of Saturday 21 February 1907, a small group of men, old and young, local and non-local, gathered in the smoke filled lounge of the Royal Hotel. While exact numbers for this meeting are not known because the minutes taken have not survived, early attendance figures for subsequent meetings would suggest the number was perhaps no more than 40 with the largest percentage of those gathered, not the young men who would be the backbone of the club, but older gentlemen who were lending their support to the launch of the endeavour. Writing a year after the meeting one member would claim that the Club originally had an active membership of 24. This figure, however, may have been as few as 14 at the beginning.

After some debate, the meeting agreed on five objectives:

a) The study and practice of the methods of lifesaving as taught by the Royal Life Saving Society
b)To minimise the loss of life from drowning by providing efficient lifesaving apparatus
c) To promote demonstrations and arrange classes of instruction so as to bring about a widespread and thorough knowledge of the principles which underlie the art of natation
d) To obtain improved facilities for surf bathing and otherwise promote and encourage the sport
e) To assist in regulating surf bathing

Having decided on officer bearers and its objectives, the only remaining issue for the meeting was to decide the name of this new organisation. With the aim that surf bathers would protect themselves, the meeting resolved that the new organisation would be known as the ‘Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club’. With that the meeting closed. In this humble lounge bar of a Bondi hotel, on a warm evening in February 1907, the oldest surf life saving club in Australia had been born.

Due to a generous Community Wa

Due to a generous Community War Memorials grant from the NSW Department of Veterans Affairs, our much loved and revered WWI and WW2 Honour Boards are being conserved by O’Sullivan Conservation. The metal attachments have been coming loose and require urgent attention. The boards will be vacuumed, metal components will be polished to remove surface corrosion and coated with protective lacquer and firmly refixed to the boards, and the wooden components will be waxed and buffed.

It is expected that the boards will be returned in time for our annual ANZAC day ceremony. We are grateful to Scott Laney (ex-president) for his continued commitment to the military heritage of the BSBLSC in successfully attaining this grant. Our application was strongly supported by Gabrielle Upton MP and Dave Sharma MP, and we greatly appreciate the NSW Department of Veterans Affairs program that enables this project to go ahead.

#bondi #bondibeach #noliveslost #volunteer #bondisurfclub #firstsurfclub #surflifesaving #staysafe #slsa #mysurflife #history
Dave Sharma MP Gabrielle Upton MP NSW Office for Veterans Affairs

Scroll to top