Freshwater SLSC Our History

Club History

In the early part of the 20th century the Freshwater area was a popular weekend camping spot for many people. As surf swimming grew in popularity in the early 1900’s, the need for a surf rescue club at the beach was recognized by a group of locals and in December 1908 the Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club was founded, choosing maroon and white as the club colours.

Since that time, the surf club has continually patrolled the beach for the benefit of the general public. The club can proudly boast that since that first day, no lives have been lost at the beach while patrolling members have been on duty.

The club has a strong link with not only surf lifesaving but also surfing, with the famous Duke Kahanamoku demonstrating his immense surfboard riding skills at the beach in December 1914 and January 1915. The board used by the Duke was later donated to the club by Claude West and is on display in the club’s Heritage Room.  We recently celebrated the Centenary of the Duke's visit  during 8-10 January 2015 -click here to link to the Duke Centenary Celebrations page

As well as a proud lifesaving record, the club boasts a long and successful competition record, with numerous State and Australian champions amongst its members. It also has developed a strong junior activities section, with large numbers of nippers and their families taking advantage of the beach and family friendly atmosphere generated by the club.

From humble beginnings, the club has grown into a modern successful lifesaving club with strong links to the local community. The colours of the local Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Rugby league team can be traced to the association many of its original players had with the club.

The first substantial club building was opened on 8 September 1935 and is now a local heritage building forming an integral part of the modern club facilities which were constructed in the mid 1980’s and recently supplemented by the completion of the club’s Heritage Room in 2011.


One of the earliest and most famous exhibitions of surf board riding given in Australia took place on the 10 January 1915 at Freshwater Beach. Duke Kahanamoku was the swimming sprint champion of the world and was touring Australia. He had arranged with a Sydney firm to manufacture a surf board to his own requirements, modelled on the boards used in his native Hawaii. Don McIntyre, who at the time was the Hon. Secretary of the Surf Bathing Association, prevailed on "The Duke" to give his exhibition at Freshwater. When he arrived at the beach with his surfboard in an open carriage, a great crowd of spectators had gathered. His display in the surf was an eye opener to everyone and it lit the fuse to help popularise surf board riding in Australia. "The Duke" was a very charming person and captivated his audience with his skill.

Click on the internet link below to see the video showing Duke when he returned to Australia once again, as an honoured guest, to watch the Melbourne 1956 Olympics. The video shows Duke once more at Freshie with the original board, meeting up again with Claude West.
Service in the Sun 1957

Duke's Hawaiian surfboard was made by him at Boomerang Camp cottage in Undercliff Road, Freshwater in mid-December 1914.  It appears he left it to senior surf club members such as George and Monty Walker of Manly LSC when he left Australia in February 1915, as an expression of gratitude by the Duke to them for their assistance to him. The Walker Brothers later gave Duke's Freshwater board to Claude West, one of our members, who later donated the board to the surf club on 11 October 1953. The club has been the honoured custodian of the board ever since and it remains on display in the club house Heritage Room. We feel the Board to be one of the most important pieces of surf memorabilia in Australia.


Our website has an extensive photo gallery. Select “Club History” tab once in the Gallery to view our historic collection. These represent some of the many photographs and historical artifacts that have been compiled by our Clubs dedicated History Group including George Webster, Ray Brennan, Mick Griffin, Eric Middledorp and (the late) Bluey Myers.




History Book

To celebrate the club’s 100th year, a centenary book was published highlighting the many achievements of the club and its members over the past 100 years. Copies of the book are still available and can be purchased from the club.