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’.

Recognition 

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.  

1940 1949

The Bondi Flag

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, Bouganville and in the Phillipines.

The flag went with our members

The Standard left Australia in November 1940 and returned in November 1945, following our brave members through many theatres of war.

Surf Boats

Surf Boats

Astra I was launched on 25 November 1945. The Crystal, was donated by Crystal Shirts and launched on 4 January 1948

1930 1939

New clubhouse

New clubhouse

On 3rd March 1934 a new Clubhouse was opened in style with a christmas party of the roof.

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.

Second boat the Bill Bennett

Second boat the Bill Bennett

Waverley Council helped us buy our second boat in the 1931-32 season, with a pound-for-pound subsidy. The "Bill Bennett" was launched on 1 May 1938. The boat was bought entirely from members' fund raising.

1920 1929

Bondi's first surf boat

Bondi's first surf boat

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

In the 1927-28 season we bought our first boat, also named Johnny Walker.

1929 R&R Winners

1929 R&R Winners

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

1910 1919

First Bronze Medallion

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 Ornsby, Sid Fullwood became the first Bondi "Bronzie".

Bondi Surf Bathers Club 1917

Bondi Surf Bathers Club 1917

Members drill in front of the third clubhouse in 1917

1907 1909

The opening of the first club house in November 1907

The opening of the first club house in November 1907

Bondi Surf Club has been recognised as the oldest 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 Brawley, Sean & Bondi Surf Bathers' Life Saving Club 2007, The Bondi lifesaver : a history of an Australian icon, ABC Books, Sydney

The first group photo of members, 24 March 1907.

The first group photo of members, 24 March 1907.

The new surf reel is proudly displayed.