Over a Century of Tradition
The Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club is officially recognised by Surf Life Saving Australia as the first surf lifesaving club in Australia. It is also the oldest active surf lifesaving club in the world. It is an Australian icon and holds an indelible position in Australian history. The primary objective of surf lifesaving was – and is – to protect the bathers who frequent our beaches through manned patrols and associated services.
The Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club was established on the 21st February 1907 at the Royal Hotel Bondi Beach by a group of like-minded bathers. The club was responsible for introducing surf lifesaving to Australia and pioneered the famous surf reel and line. A notable early rescue was one of a young boy by the name of Charlie Smith who later went on to become the famous aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. This rescue was carried out on January 2nd 1907, prior to the club being formed and not with the famous reel which wasn’t invented yet.
The moment that thrust Bondi and surf lifesaving into the public arena was Sunday 6th February 1938. Thirty-one years after the club was founded Bondi members performed over 300 rescues after hundreds of swimmers were swept out to sea by a series of large waves. At the end of the day five lives were lost and the occasion was forever etched into Australian history as ‘Black Sunday’.
The Bondi Surf Life Saving Club would like to acknowledge the Gadigal and Bidjigal peoples – the first peoples that occupied the Sydney Coast and pay our respects to the elders past and present.
Bondi or “Boondi” has been translated as “place where a fight with nullas took place.” (A nulla is an aboriginal club, or hitting weapon).
Aboriginal Rock carvings that could be 2000 years old, depicting sharks, fish, humans and whales, can be found along the Bondi to Bronte Coastal walk, Williams Park (Bondi Golf Course) and Ray O’Keefe Reserve.
Note: Text on this page is largely drawn from The Bondi LifeSaver A History of an Australian Icon by Sean Brawley 2007.