Surf Life Saving Australia

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) is an Australian not-for-profit community organisation that promotes water safety and provides surf rescue services.

Surf Life Saving Australia
Formation18 October 1907 (1907-10-18)
HeadquartersBondi Beach, Sydney, NSW
Region served
168,823 (2017)[1]
Graham Ford AM
Key people
Adam Weir (CEO)
SubsidiariesWestpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service
AffiliationsAustralian Water Safety Council
International Life Saving Federation
43 (2017)[2]
Formerly called
Surf Life Saving Association of Australia

SLSA strives to create a safe environment on Australia's beaches and coastline through patrols, education and training, public safety campaigns and the promotion of health and fitness. As of 30 June 2018 the organisation had 173,865 members with 314 affiliated surf life saving clubs.[3] The majority of its services are provided by volunteer surf lifesavers, that provided 1.35 million hours of service, rescued 10,879 people, and provided 108,044 first aid treatments during 2016/17.[4] In 1973, the organisation established the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service that, during 2016/17, delivered 850 rescue missions via helicopter.[4]

Surf Life Saving Australia also operates Australia's largest lifeguard service, contracting to local government and other coastal land managers. Additional income is sourced through community donations, fundraising and corporate sponsorship. SLSA is a foundation member of the International Life Saving Federation (ILS) and plays a vital leadership role in developing lifesaving, beach safety and drowning prevention standards around the world. SLSA is an organisation which prides itself on saving lives, creating great Australians, and building better communities.[5]


In 1902 it was against the law to enter the ocean during daylight hours in Australia .[6] A Sydney newspaper editor William Gocher announced his challenge of this law at Manly Beach[6][7] however it is unclear this act changed the rules. What did occur is that 10 days after an incident at Bondi on 13 November 1902, Randwick Council became the first to allow daylight bathing.[8] Eventually as more people began to challenge the law it was reversed but inexperienced swimmers were having problems with unusual surf conditions such as rip currents and the number of drownings increased.[6] Groups of volunteers began to patrol the beach to assist and on 21 February 1907 the Bondi Surf Bathers' Life Saving Club was formed.[6] The Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales was formed on 18 October 1907 when nine voluntary surf life saving clubs and representatives of the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) met and affiliated to represent the interests of surf lifesavers.[9] In attendance were the Royal Life Saving Society, Manly Surf Club (this a different organisation to the Manly Life Saving Club which was formed in 1911[10]), Bondi Surf Bathers' Life Saving Club, Coogee Surf Life Brigade, Bronte Surf Brigade, Bondi Surf and Social Club (North Bondi SLSC), Tamarama Surf Club (only lasted a few weeks/months and then collapsed), Maroubra Surf Club, United Wanderers Surf Club and Woollahra Surf Club.[9] The meeting resolved:

"That it is desirable to form an association of surf clubs, to secure improved facilities for surf bathing, and otherwise promote and regulate the sport..." and "That the association be called 'The Surf Bathing Association of N.S.W."[11]

The name was changed to Surf Life Saving Association of Australia (SLSAA) in 1922;[9] and changed again in 1991 to the current Surf Life Saving Australia.[9]

Women were actively involved in surf-lifesaving for many years, and in 1980 the association rules were changed so that they could become active patrolling members of the SLSA.[12]

Surf Life Saving

SLSA's vision is zero preventable drowning deaths in Australian waters, and is worked towards through patrolling beaches, coastal risk assessments, education, and training.[5] Since 1907, surf lifesavers have rescued over 650,000 beachgoers.[13] In 2017-18, surf lifesavers and Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) Lifeguards performed 10,249 rescues, 65,296 first aid treatments, and over 1.5 million preventative actions on Australia's beaches.[4]


As of 30 June 2018, Surf Life Saving has a membership base of 173,865.[14] Nationally there are 61,604[14] junior members, or Nippers as they are more commonly known. Nippers are aged between 5–13 years and learn beach safety and awareness skills, in a fun and healthy environment.


Surf lifesavers must be competent swimmers and skilled in rescue techniques, resuscitation and first aid. The entry level qualification to be a surf lifesaver is the Bronze Medallion/Certificate II in Public Safety (Aquatic Rescue). Volunteers must be at least 15 years old to undertake this qualification, which involves theory and practical training, and an assessment of patrolling and lifesaving skills.

Upon completion of the Bronze Medallion/Certificate II, surf lifesavers are encouraged to undertake additional training in the areas of Emergency Care, Powercraft, Beach Management, Aquatic Rescue and Training and Assessment. Lifesavers must also participate in an annual skills maintenance session to ensure that they maintain and update their skills.

International Development

Surf Life Saving in Australia has provided and continues to provide support and expertise to many allied lifesaving organisations across the globe. Contributing to the International Life Saving Federation’s global effort to reduce injury and death in, on, or around water, Surf Life Saving exchanges information and best practice and supports the establishment of lifesaving services in areas of the world where they are needed.

Most of Surf Life Saving’s international work is undertaken in the Asia-Pacific region, not only due to geographical location, but also because of the aquatic environments within the region. Also, as the largest developed country within the Asia Pacific region, a great deal of responsibility to support developing countries lies with Australia.


Surf Life Saving Australia is focused on exploring statistical and analytical data to support development of education, technology, communications and operations to reduce coastal drowning deaths in Australia. Although SLSA has been conducting research for many years, 2010 was the birth of a dedicated and thorough research program. The SLSA Research Scheme was introduced to adopt rigour into research project design and provide funding for targeted and priority research projects.

2007 Year of the Surf Lifesaver

In 2004, the Australian Government declared 2007 the Year of the Surf Lifesaver and allocated funding of A$1 million over three years for Surf Life Saving Australia to celebrate its centenary.[15][16]

See also


  1. "Annual Report" (website). Surf Life Saving Australia. 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  2. "Annual Report" (website). Surf Life Saving Australia. 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  3. "Surf Life Saving Australia Annual Report 2017-18". Surf Life Saving. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  4. "Surf Life Saving Australia Annual Report 2017-18". Surf Life Saving. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  5. "President & CEO's Report - Surf Life Saving". Surf Life Saving. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  6. Fenner, Peter J (2005). "Surf Life Saving Australia". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal. 35: 33–43. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  7. Mitchell, Bruce (1983). "Gocher, William Henry (1856-1921)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  8. "Urban myth or surfing history? - HONEST HISTORYHONEST HISTORY". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  9. O'Byrne, Garry Browne (November–December 2006). "Making the Legend Coogee Surf Life Saving Club in the 1950s". AQ: Australian Quarterly. Australian one d. 78 (6): 13–21.
  10. Coulter, Stephen (26 July 2010). "Manly Life Saving Club is Australia and the World's First Surf LifeSaving Club". The Manly Daily. Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2011. and "History". Manly Lifesaving Club. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  11. "History - SLS Sydney Branch". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  12. Henningham, Nikki (16 May 2007). "Surf Lifesaving Australia (1907 - )". Australian Women's Archives Project. The Australian Women’s Register. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  13. "Who We Are - Surf Life Saving". Surf Life Saving. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  14. "Surf Life Saving Australia Annual Report 2017-18". Surf Life Saving. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  15. Dawson, Andrew (12 May 2004). "Government kicks in $273m for Commonwealth Games". The Canberra Times. via p. 18.
  16. Farrelly, Kate (10 July 2004). "A whole lot more out of life". The Sydney Morning Herald. My Career (liftout). via p. 1.
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