September 23 - 29, 2012: Issue 77
Warriewood Surf Life Saving Club: the Formative years
Right: View from Warriewood Headland looking towards Manly, June 1933. Call Number Government Printing Office 1 - 01943
John Ogden’s excellent book, Saltwater People of the Broken Baysstates the exact meaning of Warriewood is unconfirmed but is thought to be derived from the English word ‘wood’ and an Aboriginal word warra (a swamp tree of Pittwater) or warrie meaning ‘wild and untamed’ to refer to the swamp wetlands much of Warriewood valley used to comprise. A further translation of Warriewood is ‘much swampy water’. This valley once was a feeding ground for local indigenous peoples with yabbie and eel filled creeks, seasonal fish runs and bush foods. Settlers such as Leon Houreux were wood-cutters in Warriewood, indicating tall timbers once grew here.
On the coastal side the eastern facing strip of beach a small family orientated surf club officially opened in February 1950. Prior to that the waters below Turrimetta Headland have tragically claimed lives;
BOAT OVERTURNS. Man Drowned in Surf. SURVIVOR'S DESPERATE STRUGGLE. Robert McIntosh, 31, of Park-street, Narrabeen, was drowned, and William Gadd, 61, of Long Reef, had to make a desperate swim to the shore when a fishing boat overturned near Warriewood Beach yesterday morning. The two men, who were unemployed, intended to make some money by fishing to tide them over the Christmas season. They left Narrabeen about 7.30 a.m., and fished for three hours before they were caught in a strong southerly. They immediately set out for Warriewood Beach. When within 100 yards of the shore they were caught in a great breaker, which overwhelmed the boat and capsized it. Both men were thrown into the water. Gadd was struggling desperately to save himself when McIntosh came to the surface about 10 feet from him. McIntosh beat the water with his arms, and his friend could see that he was helpless. Gadd made an effort to reach him. When he was within a few feet, McIntosh threw up his arms. "I'm done for," he shouted, and sank. Gadd was washed aside by a huge wave, and had difficulty in reaching the shore. He was thrown on the beach, and did not revive until he had been treated by Constable Huckins, of Narrabeen. BOAT OVERTURNS. (1931, November 10). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16819186
The Beach at Warriewood: The seclusion of Warriewood Beach, near Mona Vale, makes it a haven for those holiday-makers who avoid the beaten track. The Beach at Warriewood--. (1936, January 1). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17223593
MISSING FROM ROCKS SYDNEY Monday - Police searched today along the base of precipitous cliffs near Warriewood beach for Percy Albert Honeysett 42 of John street Leichhardt. Honeysett with his wife and two children left his home early yesterday morning to fish off the locks near what is known as the blow hole He left his wife and family in their car at the top of the cliffs and when he did not return late in the afternoon his wife notified the police Narrabeen and Manly police with Mrs Honeysett and civilians started a search. They found Honeysett’s overcoat and fishing bag on a rock but no sign of the missing man. MISSING FROM ROCKS. (1939, May 9). The Argus(Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 3. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12126364
The beach was accessed and enjoyed by many of the local families in the valley over the hill and at North Narrabeen. Its shift from one still wild frontier to a place acknowledged as being frequented by many is its inclusion in Depression era works which saw many rock pools constructed along our coasts;
The Warringah Shire Council has decided to construct a new rock baths at WarriewoodBeach for use during the coming surfing season. BUILDINGS CONTEMPLATED. (1931, September 1).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16825334
GEAR INSPECTIONS. Every year, at the commencement of the surfing season, the Surf Life-saving Association's gear Inspection committee makes the round of all surf life saving clubs in the metropolitan area, and Inspects the equipment they possess. This inspection will be carried out as follows:
October 17: .Bondi. North Bondi. Tamarama, Bronte.
October 18: Cronulla, North Cronulla, South Brighton. Brighton. Maroubra, Coogee. Clovelly.
October24: .Manly, North Steyne, Queenscliff, Freshwater. South Curl Curl. North Curl Curl.
October 25: Palm Beach. Whale Beach. Bilgola, Avalon, Newport. Mona Vale, Alumni, Warriewood. North Narrabeen, South Narrabeen, Collaroy, Deewhy.
SURF LIFE-SAVING. (1936, October 7). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 18. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17277246
During World War II the whole stretch of Pittwater’s coastline became a series of trenches, barbed wire fences and watch posts manned by locals and the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) an Australian part time volunteer military force of World War II modelled on the British Home Guard. Surf clubs were manned by women, younger children with measures taken to ensure those who went surf bathing did not drown;
SURF LIFE-SAVING: The Surf Life Saving Association is taking steps to form a N.S.W. Police Surf Life-saving Club, with headquarters at Warriewood. A meeting to form the club will be held on September 10 at Police Headquarters. Phillip street. SURF LIFE-SAVING. (1941, August 7). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17745566
By 1950, at the pleading of resident mums, current Life Member Jock Mackay and Gordon Longley, father of the former member for Pittwater and lifelong Warriewood resident Jim Longley acceded to taking on a role as life savers. According to 1953 Warringah Council minutes from Meetings Requests by Surf Clubs for appointment, under Seal, of Beach Inspectors nominated by them, were for Warriewood; - A.Ormsby, J.Mackay, R.Stevens-Jones, G.Longley J.Smiles and J. Lenton. Equipped with a surfboat donated by skilled yachtsman Sid Fisher, then sweep at Bilgola, and described by some members as a ‘crate’ Warriewood SLSC was officially ‘launched’. Jock Mackay, President of Warriewood SLSC for 13 years describes this boat thus:
The boat was in shocking condition. Its back was broken, and instead of a curve from one end to the other, in the middle it was flat, ribs broken and planks distorted and leaked like a sieve. The members caulked it and painted it but when we took it out in the surf it used to fill up in about five minutes. It eventually made great BBQ fuel.
Early members state the club was officially formed on February 18th, 1950.
Considering Jock's appraisal of their first surf boat, it should come as no surprise that this occurred;
Lifesavers HURT IN BOAT CRASH Three Warriewood lifesavers were injured yesterday when their surfboat crashed on a sand-bank at Whale Beach. Sweep Ken Scully received back injuries, bowman John McKay injured his legs, and Allan Kensey slightly hurt his right leg. The upset, during the senior surf-boat race at the Whale Beach restricted carnival, was described by officials as the most unusual and spectacular seen in recent years. Returning from the buoys the Warriewood boat caught a small wave which petered out near the edge of a bank near the beach. Then a huge wave suddenly built up behind the boat. As the dumper curled and broke, about 18 inches of water in the boat surged to the bows The crew was powerless to prevent a crash. The boat smashed nose first on the sandbank, bounced, and then did a stem to stern turnover, landing upside down. LIFESAVERS HURT IN BOAT CRASH. (1953, December 28). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18402498
Warriewood, like all our SLSC is built on the people who are members. You cannot summon skis, boards, boats, reels and IRB’s out of thin air; raising funds through sausage sizzles, cake bakes, anything that will turn pennies into pounds or cents into dollars is pursued with a passion to support those who patrol the beaches, even if a newly formed club;
Action Likely On Surf Club Fees: Eleven surf clubs will be barred from competing in carnivals unless they pay their capitation fees by Friday week. This was decided at the Sydney branch meeting of the S.L.S.A. last night. The clubs whose fees had not been received are Bronte, Coogee, North Bondi, North Narrabeen, Maroubra, Malabar, Garie, Burning Palms, North Palm Beach, Long Reef, and Warriewood. Action Likely On Surf Club Fees. (1950, December 6). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18190228
SURF CARNIVAL.-Warriewood Surf Club will hold a surf life-saving display at Warriewood beach on Sunday afternoon. Proceeds of the display will go towards the construction of a new club-house. U.S. BOXER MAY VISIT. (1952, January 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18258865
MANY SEE SURF GALA: About 3,000 people saw a gala display of lifesaving at Warriewood Beach yesterday. Competing clubs included North Narrabeen, Avalon, Warriewood Beach, Mona Vale, Bilgola, Palm Beach, Newport, Long Reef, South Narrabeen, Collaroy, and North Palm Beach. MANY SEE SURF GALA. (1952, February 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18254505
THIEVES ROB SURF CLUB: Thieves broke into a temporary storeroom of the Warriewood Beach Surf Life Saving Club and stole three surf-reel lines worth £50 and other equipment. Members of the club discovered the theft yesterday. The secretary, Max Muras, said the club was started only12 months ago, and was struggling desperately for funds. Detective R. Sadler, of Manly, is investigating. THIEVES ROB SURF CLUB. (1952, July 28). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18275144
The first clubhouse was constructed by members and their families with materials gained where they could be found and some costs being met by Warringah Council. In 1953, Warringah Council minutes from their 10/11/1953 meeting record;
Warriewood Surf Clubhouse - Engineer's estimate, £29.2.2, Surfbath - for supply of pipes. resolved, - That the Council supply the pipes, the Club to Carry out the work. Warriewood S.L.S. Club, 18/8/53, expressing appreciation for the support and assistance given by the Council and 21. Officers, and particularly in connection with the concreting work recently done by the Club. By Cr. Berry- Could the road leading to Warriewood Surf Club-house be graded before the Carnival next month, and two box lines be placed at each and of the beach? Yes.
Built at the southern end of the beach this first club house was burnt down in 1982. As is the way with Pittwater people, it was promptly rebuilt.
Warriewood SLSC has always had a strong representation in surf boats, winning many inter-club and championship races during its 62 years. In 1956 the club won a new surfboat, the Pontiac Chieftain, which the Loreat SLSC in Western Australia purchased from them for 400 pounds in 1958 as their first surf boat. The Pontiac Chieftain was also an automobile produced by the Pontiac Motors Division of General Motors from 1949 to 1958. Chieftains were one of the first all new car designs to come to Pontiac in the post World War II years.
NEW FORD 6 HERE NEXT WEEK. (1952, August 2). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80766482
Warriewood’s prowess, and the name of this new surf boat, as much as the romance ascribed to this gem of a beach, seemed to be utilised by others and illustrates how long GM (USA) and Ford have had their eyes on each other’s markets;
NEW FORD 6 HERE NEXT WEEK: The first six-cylinder car produced by Ford in Australia-the Zephyr-will be shown at Haig Motors, Mount Gambier, on Wednesday. Big brother to the Consul, the Zephyr Six is of a design and power performance that make it ideally suited to Australian conditions. The styling preserves the smooth-flowing lines of the bigger V8 Custom and smaller Consul. The Zephyr is seen (at right) on the headland overlooking picturesque Warriewood Beach, north of Sydney. Pretty picnicker is 17-year-old Jeanette Elphiek, chosen to star in the Australian film "Duwarra," now being produced in Central 'Australia. NEW FORD 6 HERE NEXT WEEK. (1952, August 2). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80766482
RESISTANCE MOVEMENT. (1963, June 5). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58435718
With members such as legendary Allan Collins, 'The Master' sweep, Robert Fulton who joined the Warriewood Surf Club in 1969 and began rowing Surf Boats in 1970, Warriewood entered a Golden Era of being the club to watch during surf boat competitions. Robert Walsh’s Warriewood Surf Boat History 1970-1984 records these feats.
Warriewood’s strong focus on family and training the next generation also ensured members played a vital role in leading the fight for women to become a reconised part of the lifesaving movement. Maurie Segedin, former president of Warriewood junior club, recalls:
In the late seventies, fellow nipper dad Ian Dose, and I would take our children down to Warriewood beach for Nippers. We had six daughters between us and back in those days girls weren't allowed to participate in surf lifesaving activities. It didn't take long for our girls to get bored just watching their brothers compete on the beach every Sunday morning. They were pretty upset about the unfairness of it as well. After all, they said, why should the boys have all the fun. At the time I was President of the Warriewood Junior Club, so between Ian and I we strongly lobbied the SLSAA to include women in surf life saving. I'm proud to say that we were successful, thanks to our darling daughters.
Women were officially allowed to be SLSC members and part of patrols in 1980.
The Warriewood SLSC website state the goals of the Warriewood Surf Life Saving Club are:
- To supply services that minimise danger and prevent loss of life or injury to beach users.
- To raise the skills and knowledge of the beach-going public in areas of aquatic safety and recreation.
- To be fully supportive of the authority on matters relating to beach and aquatic safety and management.
Ron Searl, who photographed and collated many of our Pittwater events won a prize for this image of the Warriewood surf boat in 1980. Below is this local gent with his photograph. Mr Searl is the father of highly respected resident historian Geoff Searl. Image courtesy Pittwater Local Studies Unit at Mona Vale Library.
SURF MEN'S RESCUES - Boats Answer Night Calls
Surf boats manned by members of two Sydney surf life-saving: clubs last night made two dramatic rescues in heavy seas, far off the coast. Four men were taken from a sinking launch 1 and 1/2 miles out to sea by members of the Palm Beach club. North Narrabeen club members battled for several hours to save a 35ft launch, with three aboard, from being swept on to rocks.
CALLED FROM DANCE: Palm Beach club members were holding a dance in their clubhouse when a distress rocket was seen out to sea about 8.30 p.m. Five surf club members, four rowers and a sweep, quickly changed into swimming trunks and rowed one and a half miles to where the distress signal had been seen.
There they found a battered 30-foot cruiser, with the four men on board, awash to the deck.
MAKING RAFT: The men had hacked at the cabin-canopy and were making a raft with this, with petrol tins and slashed mattresses. The men were ready to board the raft, as the wreck seemed in danger of sinking at any moment. The surf boat was able to draw alongside long enough for the men to step into it. Heavy seas were running. The surf boat made towards the southern end of Palm Beach, because calmer waters were necessary for a safe landing. The cruiser was sinking as the surf boat left.
The surf crew managed to land the four men safely in the light of car headlamps. The rescued men said that the launch began to leak about. 6.30 and was soon foundering.
NO NAMES: The men, who would not give their names or addresses, lost all the belongings they had on board.
The five men in the surf boat were: W. E. Sweetapple, R. Gurney, J. Kraefft, M. Hall-Dcst, R. Butler. All are in their early twenties.
The launch was washed up on North Palm Beach at 11o'clock last night.
POLICE ASK HELP: The North Narrabeen club save was made as the 35-foot launch was going on the rocks at Warriewood Point, near Mona Vale. Residents at Warriewood telephoned police about 7pm when they saw the craft drifting towards the rocks. Sergeant Adams of Narrabeen police went to North Narrabeen Surf Club, where a dance was in progress and asked for help. Six members of the club, Jim Mason, Norman Ambrose, Ken Hodges, Ron Well, Leslie Brown, and R Noonan, took out the club's boat and a line, while other members of the club raced to Warriewood beach and spotlighted the launch with motor car headlights
HARD ROW: They rowed four miles against a strong south westerly wind, through rain and huge waves and reached the launch when it was 20 yards from the rocks. One of the surf club members, Ken Hodges, dived from the surf boat and swam 50 yards with a line to the launch. The other lifesavers then pulled the yacht clear of the rocks and into deep water.
At 11 o clock they had the launch in tow before the south wind while the police launchNemesis raced to give assistance. The lifesavers had intended to take the launch in to Mona Vale beach, since both Warriewood and Narrabeen beaches were too rough. But at 10 30, a strong southerly had forced them to go beyond Mona Vale and keep a straight course ahead.
"It looks as if they will have to keep on going north until the Nemesis catches up with them," a member of the North Narrabeen Club, Mr Bill Ford, reported at 11.15 last night.
"It's pitch black out there, and we are completely out of contact with them, but our members and others have lined the point and beaches, spotlighting them with motor car headlights. The present arrangement is that the Nemesis will take them in tow, drop our members here on the way back and take the launch back to Sydney "
At 11.30 last night, the two boats were drifting helplessly in heavy seas a mile and a half off Avalon. The police launch Nemesis had just reached them.
HEAVY WEATHER: At 1 o clock this morning police aboard the Nemesis reported that they had six members of the surf club and three people from the yacht aboard. They were making heavy weather of it and the surf boat they were towing was completely submerged at one time. Large waves were breaking across it.
BOAT LEAKY: Mrs Marge Mason, of Arthur Street, Deewhy, whose husband. James Mason, is the surf boat captain, said "I was helping at a fete near the club house. The fete was to raise monev for a new boat. The one the boys are out in is very old and leaky. The club Captain raced over and told my husband that a yacht was in distress off Warriewood Point. Jim and the crew who were with him grabbed their costumes and had the boat in the water in minutes. How they got it out in that surf I don't know. That was nine o'clock. They have got a torch in the surf boat. I have been watching its light getting smaller It was nearly out of sight when the lights of the police launch came up in the south. Then I knew they were all right "
Mrs Hazel Brown, wife of Les Brown, one of the surf boat's crew said ' The boys in the boat will be half frozen and probably sick. They were only wearing cotton costumes and it has been raining off and on since they left "
SURF MEN'S RESCUES. (1952, December 27). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18296475
Safer Beaches-At A Cost By A Staff Correspondent
MANY THOUSANDS of people will welcome the official opening of the surfing season this weekend-if only because it will cost them nothing. THOSE who do go in the water will do so with comparative peace of mind. Anyone in trouble in an undertow, or in dumpers has only to raise an arm.
That is the signal for a human torpedo to shoot through the water with white lifeline snaking behind him and a team of trained men in action on the beach. For on all main beaches the lifesaver will be on patrol week-ends and holidays from now till Easter. He likes the surf, too; and he likes saving lives, but it does cost him something.
Most Australians have accepted his sacrifices year in and year out, but without thinking very much about them. lt costs the life-saver up to £1/1/ annual membership fee to belong to his club. It costs him time spent on surf club training and on beach patrols. Some times it costs him his life. For instance, that is what it cost Jim Peryman, 23 year-old captain of North Cronulla Surf Club, last summer when seaweed fouled his line and pulled him under while he was rescuing Daphne Knowles, 16, of Bexley.
A month earlier Harbord lifesaver, Mervyn Fletcher, 16, had been drowned when seaweed fouled his line during a surf carnival at Dee-why.
Shocked by these deaths and another near-tragedy at Newcastle in the same manner, the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia decided that a quick-release safety belt should be made standard equipment. lt approved two belts, the Ross and Munyard. Wearing either of these the life-saver, with a flick of the wrist, can release himself from belt and line. This season each club will have one or more safety belts, but most will have to use old-type belts because they cannot afford to re-equip with safety belts.
S.L.S.A. officials say it is the same with all types of gear. The clubs, which have always had to battle for funds, are up against inflation. A reel and line, which cost about £20 before the last war, now costs £38. A surf boat that could be put on the water for £100 now costs £300.
Last year the Commonwealth Government for the first time granted £5,000 to be shared between about 180 surf clubs in Australia. But even this with State grants could not make up the leeway, and small clubs that have just started, like Warriewood, Bilgola and Long Reef, will be desperate for gear, according to S.L.S.A. officials.
A fast-growing population and increasing popularity of the surf have increased the problems of the clubs. More patrols are needed, more gear and more "social work" to raise funds.
New Australians have swelled the ranks of the surfers and banked up more problems and anxiety for the lifesavers. Many of them don't understand, or ignore, the "Bathe between the flags" signs and seem unconscious of the patrolman's whistles and signals when they drift towards a treacherous rip or undertow.
Like so many of the old Australians, the migrants just take it for granted when the lifesavers drag them from death in the surging waves.
"I'm sure that most of the New Australians think we are paid to do the job," said Mr. A. R. Loton, Sydney Branch secretary of the S.L.S.A.
Club membership is not what it used to be in the pre-war days, when most big clubs had closed memberships and waiting lists. In some clubs the membership is falling off and the old hands are working hard to maintain efficiency.
Since it started its voluntary work in 1907 the Association has saved about 80,000 lives. It is ready for another 3,500-odd rescues this season.
Safer Beaches—At A Cost. (1951, September 30). The Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW : 1949 - 1953), p. 8. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28670997
At Warriewood, a lifesaver Bruce Henderson, 18, was knocked off his surf ski by a wave about 450 yards from the beach. The surf ski struck him on the head and knocked him unconscious. A senior member of the club, G. Dally, swam 100 yards and supported Henderson until J. MacKay swam out in a belt to bring Henderson in. Big Crowds For Sport, Beaches. (1953, January 2). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27526148
ATTACKED BY SHARK SYDNEY, Jan. 13: When attacked by a big shark 400yards off Mona Vale beach today Donald Dixon (17), of Warriewood, has his surf ski smashed and was thrown into the water. A club-mate, also on a surf ski, risked attack himself by paddling close by and escorting the other youth to the beach. He was Lindsay Payton (17), of Mona Vale. The shark followed the surfers to within 50 yards of the beach but did not attack again. ATTACKED BY SHARK. (1949, January 14). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47638060
The meshing of sharks off Australian beaches was begun in1937 in the Sydney area. In December last year, it was extended to the four beaches at Wollongong and five at Newcastle. The meshing cost is met by the State Government 'Last year, tenders were let for the meshing of Wollongong foj:£4800, for Sydney £8000. and for Newcastle, £2450 for a specified number of settings each month. The contractors, however, were given the option of meshing20 per cent, more than the minimum number, and the cost went up accordingly, so that the actual cost to the Government was about £18,000 for the three areas for the year. The meshing is done off Sydney and Wollongong by Captain P. R. Stuart Pty., Ltd., of Sydney, and off Newcastle byMr. N. Gorshenin. The Government apparently is satisfied with the meshing as it has added two more beaches, Warriewood and Bilgola to those to be meshed off Sydney this year. SYDNEY SURFERS ARE LUCKY—THEY CAN BATHE IN PEACE. (1950, December 2). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50034513
Warriewood Beach looking north to Mona Vale, 2011. Pic by AJG.
Warriewood SLSC Formative Years threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon, 2012.