Undoubtedly, surf lifesaving is written into Australia's history. From its fledgling beginnings as various Sydney Life Saving Clubs and brigades in the 1870s, surf lifesaving now has more than 160,000 members in more than 300 clubs around Australia.
In New South Wales, over 75,000 members at 129 clubs protect 1,590 kilometres of coastline from Fingal Beach in the north to Pambula Beach in the south.
The origins of Surf Life Saving New South Wales, and indeed Australia, can be traced back to the actions of Mr William Gocher at Manly Beach in September 1902, defying the law of the time by bathing during prohibited hours (daylight). His and similar actions by other people forced the recognition of daylight bathing and the pastime of surfing became part of our national culture.
As surf bathing grew in popularity, its dangers just as rapidly became apparent. Small groups of experienced and regular surfers began to form themselves into lifesaving bodies to assist those who required to be rescued from an unfamiliar environment.
As these clubs grew in size and numbers, the need for a united front to raise funds and seek assistance from local and state government resulted in the New South Wales Surf Bathing Association being formed on 18 October 1907.
However Surf Life Saving has had to broaden its charter beyond the realms of water safety. As Australia has identified and actively promoted its beaches and coastline as one of its most valuable assets to domestic and overseas tourists, the modern day surf lifesaver has had to develop into a public relations officer, a resource for beachgoer information, an ambassador promoting our beach culture and the custodian of our seaside playgrounds and their safety.
To keep our beaches safe, surf lifesavers patrol beaches from September to April. Each year surf lifesavers spend in excess of 500,000 voluntary hours patrolling most of the accessible beaches along the New South Wales coastline.
Since recording began in 1949, Surf Life Saving New South Wales has saved more than 345,000 lives. Surf Life Saving New South Wales makes an invaluable contribution to the community by providing safe and enjoyable destinations for all beach visitors.
It is thanks to the dedication and professionalism of these fine volunteers that New South Wales beaches are amongst the safest in the world.
Hence, Surf Life Saving's motto, which has not changed since its inception in 1907, is still as relevant today as it was at the time of the Association's formation – ‘Vigilance and Service’.