Tweed Daily News

Celebrating 100 years of rescues

COOLANGATTA had a glimpse back in time on Saturday when lifesavers and swimmers donned old-fashioned swimwear to re-enact the first recorded surf rescue that took place on a Queensland beach 100 years ago.

The pivotal moment in Queensland's surf lifesaving history led directly to the formation of the state's first club, the forerunner to today's Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club on Greenmount Beach.

Premier Anna Bligh said that the rescue was the start of something big.

“Surf lifesaving clubs mushroomed around the state, and for good reason,” Mrs Bligh said.

“Having lifesavers on hand to select the safest spots for swimming and surfing makes life at the beach today that much safer and that much more fun. In fact, it's hard to think of going to the beach without the benefit of the watchful eye of lifesavers.

“Today's centenary re-enactment gives us the opportunity to pause for a moment and reflect on the contribution surf lifesaving clubs and their remarkable volunteers make to our great Queensland lifestyle every year.”

With a crowd of about 200 people watching on, four women and a man were hauled in from the choppy surf using a line, reel and belt on Saturday, exactly as it was done in 1909.

Wearing swimsuits in the style of the Victorian era, the swimmers were brought back to shore one by one to appreciative applause from the crowd.
Coolangatta lifesaver Ryan Hawkins, 25, took part in the mock rescue decked out in a modest cream-coloured one-piece swim suit.

“(The bathers then) were fantastic, just beautiful,” he said with a laugh.

Fellow lifesavers followed up with demonstrations of modern rescue techniques.

Surf Life Saving Queensland president Ken Bird said that the re-enactment was a great way of looking back on the achievements and the changes that had been made in the past 100 years.

In the 1909 incident, five swimmers were saved, but two of them were close to death.

“(That rescue) led to the establishment of the state's first surf club a few days later.”

Mr Bird said there had been many improvements to lifesaving methods, including the use of power boats and helicopters, as well as resuscitation aids.

SLSQ executive manager John Brennan said that Surf Life Saving Queensland had come a long way since that first rescue was carried out in 1909.

There were now 59 clubs across the state with more than 32,000 members.

“In many ways, that rescue represented the birth of a movement that is now so much a part of the Queensland cultural landscape.

“For this reason, we feel it is fitting to be celebrating the centenary of our first rescue in the same year that Queensland celebrates its 150th birthday, because our history is also a big part of the state's history as a whole.”

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