by Guest Writer Suzie Cheel
Our beach notes today are inspired by the 100 year commemoration of the first surf rescue on our local Coolangatta beach, by the all-volunteer Surf Life Saving Club.
Four women – clad in the neck-to-knee swimming costumes dictated by the times – and one man – swam out to sea, to then “get into difficulties” with the surf and have to be rescued by the volunteer “lifesavers”, to use the traditional term now being supplanted by the imported American term “lifeguard”.
It was an inspiring moment, thinking not just about that particular rescue 100 years ago today, but of all the volunteers, at hundreds of beaches around the country, turning out every weekend, rain or shine, to watch over their fellow citizens and regularly risk their own safety, even their lives, to save people from drowning and to resuscitate those they can.
Not all those stories end happily, but many have over the years been plucked from the waves by these courageous men and women in their distinctive red and yellow caps and spared the fate of a watery grave. Two years ago the Australian Surf Life Saving Association estimated the number of lives saved at over 500,000.
Yes, we do have some paid lifeguards, provided by local councils, during the week and even – in our part of the country – through the winter months, at the more popular tourist-oriented beaches.
But without the dedicated service of those thousands of volunteers of the Australian Surf Life Saving Association, a cherished part of life for many Australians – “having a surf” – would become a much more hazardous pasttime.
And it’s not just in Australia. The movement started by a few people in Sydney, Australia, some 103 years ago, has spread also to other countries, including South Africa, the USA, Great Britain, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Sri Lanka, Ireland and New Zealand.
The motto of the Surf Life Saving movement? “Vigilance and Service”.
We salute the dedication and heroism of our lifesavers, past and present.
A model of service, an inspiration.
What do you say to commemorate 100 years of people serving the world?