I shot this photo of two lifesavers in their Surf Rescue vehicle on Hat Head beach yesterday. They were travelling the length of the beach, with rescue surfboard strapped to their vehicle, to ensure that swimmers and surfers at the other, unpatrolled, end of the beach were aware of the peculiar conditions of the surf. Surf lifesaving originated in Australia and so is perfect for my 'S' category. The surf lifesaving movement is quintessentially Australian, originating in Sydney in 1906 and spreading to other countries such as New Zealand, Ireland, Britain, South Africa and the United States. In Australia, surf lifesavers are colloquially known as 'clubbies'. It was here that the principle of swimming 'between the flags' originated.
When I was young, one of the fun things to do at the beach was to watch the lifesavers rescue somebody in trouble in the surf. In those days, they were always huge, burly, suntanned young men who strapped a big belt around their waists and dived into the surf attached to a rope that was reeled out from the shore by their colleagues. They were distinguished by their red and yellow skullcaps. Women were barred from joining. Nowadays, of course, it's all different. With kayaks, motorised rubber craft, helicopters and surfboards, their job is made much easier and lifesavers come in all shapes and sizes and both sexes. They set a good example by wearing broadbrimmed hats, plenty of sunscreen and covering up when out of the water. They must have a high level of swimming ability, first aid qualifications, and at least their bronze medallion in lifesaving.
The surf lifesaving movement was founded in response to an increase in drownings on Sydney's beaches following the relaxation of the laws that forbade bathing in daylight. Lifesavers are all voluntary and there are over 25,000 active members in Australia of which 40% are women. No lifesaver is paid one cent for their extremely important duties. Associated with the lifesaving role are the competitive sporting events that evolved from the training of lifesavers. These range from young children's beach sports – the nippers – through to the ironman and ironwoman events. Australian beaches are often taken over by these colourful events; very exciting. Their extremely expensive equipment is all donated or bought through fundraising or government grants.