Celebrating 100 years of surf sports

It’s a special time to celebrate for Surf Sports with it being exactly 100 years to the day since the inaugural NSW Surf Life Saving Championships was contested at Sydney’s iconic Bondi beach.

While there are records of earlier contests in Rescue and Resuscitation taking place between the founding of the life saving movement in 1907 and 1915, the competition held on 20 March 1915 is regarded as the beginning of formal state and national titles for surf sport competitors.

Originally known as the Association Championships, just two events were given championship status in that inaugural year with hosts Bondi taking out both the senior Rescue and Resuscitation event and the Open Surf Race which was won by J.G Brown.

The outbreak of war temporarily halted the momentum of the surf sport competition, but in the years that followed the sport grew rapidly.

As the Association Championships could be entered by interstate competitors, the winner of any championship event in the annual contest was regarded as both the State and Australian title holder.

A growing desire throughout the 1940s to move away from a NSW-centric focus resulted in the Australian titles being hosted by Queensland in an effort to unite the community behind one national event.

Sixty-five years ago in March 1950 the State Championships were hosted by North Wollongong marking the first time that the major surf sports event had been hosted outside the Sydney Metropolitan area. It was a watershed moment for the movement with the ensuing decades seeing the Championships travel up and down the State’s picturesque coastline.

Curious spectators who were at Bondi on that autumn day so many years ago would hardly recognise the enormous scale of the recent 2015 State Championships contested at Ocean Beach-Umina. Around 7,000 competitors lined-up in over 400 events in lifesaving, junior, masters and open categories with both men and women competing for glory and the coveted title of State Champion.

NSW Surf Sports Manager Shane Knight paid tribute to the performance of all the athletes at the championships believing it to be a fitting tribute to the centenary of surf sports.

“Throughout the three weekends of competition we were fortunate to witness a championship series played out in the right spirit. The kids on show in the juniors are the future stars of the sport, while the current champions also got the chance to show their skills and experience,” Mr Knight said.

“We’ve had a great celebration of surf sports so far in 2015 and the Australian Championships in April will cap off a memorable 100th season.”

Despite the growth of The Aussies, the NSW Championships attracts the same number of competitors and is still regarded with reverence by surf sport competitors, retaining its place on the calendar as one of the highlights of the competitive season.

Fri 20 Mar 2015