History – Over a Century of Tradition

The Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club is officially recognised by SLSA as the oldest surf lifesaving club in the world. It is an Australian icon and holds an indelible position in Australian history – see National Museum Display.

Check out the images in our Image Archive

A Short History

Note: Text on this page is largely drawn from The Bondi LifeSaver A History of an Australian Icon by Sean Brawley 2007.

The club existed informally for some time from the turn of the century.  Shortly before 8pm on the 21st February 1907, a group of men gathered at the Royal Hotel on the corner of Bondi Road and Denham Street Bondi to discuss matters relating to the formation of a surf lifesaving organisation on Bondi Beach – this is the first officially documented surf club formation. Details on the founding members is here

More information about the founding of lifesaving and the beginning of Bondi Surf Club.

22 MARCH 1907 A SMALL ADVERT FOR DEMONSTRATIONS OF LIFE SAVING APPEARED.

On this day, the Bondi surf club displayed a new design for the alarm reel. Over time the alarm reel would come to be known as the surf reel and emerge as the backbone of the surf lifesaving movement as well as its most enduring icon”. (Pg 43 The Bondi Lifesaver)

THE FIRST GROUP PHOTO OF MEMBERS, 24 MARCH 1907 – The new surf reel is proudly displayed.

THE FORMATION OF SLSA NSW

Club delegates (along with 9 other clubs) decided to form an association which formed the Surf Bathers’ Association of New South Wales on 18 October 1907 , which later became Surf Life Saving Australia. More on the the beginning of the club.

 

FIRST BRONZE MEDALLION

The First Bronze Medallion Squad was examined at Bondi Beach on 2 January 1910. It comprised four members of the Bondi SBLSC and the Coogee Life Saving Brigade.

THE FIRST BRONZE HOLDER

Under the instruction of founding member Lyster Ormsby, Sid Fullwood became the first Bondi “Bronzie”.

THE OPENING OF THE FIRST CLUB HOUSE IN NOVEMBER 1907

BONDI SURF BATHERS CLUB 1917 – Members drill in front of the third clubhouse in 1917

NEW CLUBHOUSE

On 3rd March 1934 a new Clubhouse was opened in style with a Christmas party on the roof – see more clubhouses here

THE BONDI FLAG

The Bondi Club flag has a proud heritage. It has been carried all around the world, and even flew during World War II in Palestine, Bougainville and in the Phillipines. The Standard left Australia in November 1940 and returned in November 1945, following our brave members through many theatres of war.

 

BONDI’S FIRST SURF BOAT

The club’s first boat, the Johnny Walker, was won in competition during the 1925-26 season.

1929 R&R WINNERS

The Bondi Club has produced more Australian Champion teams in the Rescue and Resuscitation than any other club.

BLACK SUNDAY 6TH FEBRUARY 1938

“There are no men in the world like your lifesavers “this is the greatest labour of love in the world – I have never seen anything like it” Dr. Marshall W. Dyer expressing his appreciation for how 80 our Bondi Surf Club members responded to 300 members of the public being swept out to sea within 30 seconds due to a freak wave. The toll was tragic, but it could have been disastrous. Forty had been pounded into unconsciousness and five died.  See more here

Other History Articles

If you are interested in the local colour of Bondi also check out Unreliable History by Alan Scott