January 21-27, 2024: Issue 610


Palm Beach SLSC's 2024 Adrian Curlewis Masters Carnival: 12th edition of celebrating the 'father of surf lifesaving' in australia

For many SLS athletes the best way to begin the year is to join in that carnival run on the first Friday of January annually; the Adrian Curlewis Twilight Masters Teams Carnival.

The series of swims, a board relay, ski relay and a Taplin comprising the racing clears out the New Years' cobwebs and is a great precursor to other carnivals run through February, March and April. 

This year teams from right along the peninsula attended along with a strong showing from surf clubs from Sydney's southern beachesr, with those aged in their 30's up to their 80's taking part. In fact, this years' opener carnival has become so popular two areas were utilised this year so the 43 teams competing weren't cooling their heels on the sand waiting to get into the water.

The 2024 Edition was the 12th Adrian Curlewis Twilight Masters Teams Carnival, held on the beach in front of Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club and followed by the traditional back lawn BBQ and Presentation held in PBSLSC.

The beach events always attract interest from those still on the beach at that time of a long Summer afternoon, showcasing what surf lifesaving is all about and how maintaining and honing the skills in surf sports ensures volunteers are well-equipped to help people who may get into difficulties in the ocean, no matter what their age is.

As founder of the carnival, Palm Beach SLSC, and past president of the SLS Sydney Northern Beaches Branch, PBSLSC’s Gordon Lang explains,

‘’The Adrian Curlewis Masters Carnival was started for two reasons, the first is to honour and recognise Adrian Curlewis, one of our club’s founding members and known to many as ‘the father of surf lifesaving’ in Australia. 

The second reason was to provide a fun, fast and enjoyable event and a chance for us to all get together afterwards, share some food and a few laughs and catch up.’’

Gordon Lang, at front, with the team from North Steyne

This carnival celebrates the camaraderie between individuals across all surf life saving clubs that take part. Many of these 'Masters' will meet up again at Branch, State and Australian championships over the forthcoming weeks, and there too they will form a team of one that has as its purpose supporting each other, even if they will be vying for medals against each other.

Who won the ACMC for 2024? 

Everyone who participated or attended, including special guests such as Mackellar MP Sophie Scamps, Pittwater MP Rory Amon and Councillors Bianca Crvelin and Karina Page. 

The results indicate Manly, Freshwater, Mona Vale, Palm Beach and Newport remain strong in their Masters divisions - although every other club listed here will turn up in Aussies' 2024 medals lists.

Adrian Curlewis Masters Carnival 2024 results:

So who was Adrian Curlewis? How and why did he inspire such ways of living your life?

A little about the gentle man this carnival was named for from an earlier Pittwater Online page:

Adrian Curlewis (1901-1985) was born to Ethel Turner, author of Seven Little Australians, and Herbert Raine Curlewis, barrister and later judge, at Mosman. His parents were both very community minded, his mother donating to charities and organising Ambulance and First Aid courses during World War I while his father, who was a member of the (Royal) Australian Historical Society, also lectured at Sydney University (1911-1917). 

While growing up he was exposed to visitors such as Henry Lawson and with both parents fond of the pen, his mother prolific up until her daughter Jean’s death and publishing over fifty works and his father writing love verses for Ethel in Latin and Greek, the emphasis on developing the mind was balanced by a love of sports. Ethel enjoyed skating, tennis and surfing and the family spent many summers in Pittwater at Palm Beach. 

''We camped in a tent at the north end, we didn't own or rent one of the bungalows.'' Ian, his son, told Pittwater Online years ago.

L to r: Adrian Curlewis, Ethel Turner, Jean Curlewis and her husband Dr. Leo Charlton in the Blue Mountains - photo courtesy Curlewis family

This early T Model Ford was one of the four cars to be seen at Palm Beach in the early 1900’s. In this photo Ethel and her sister Lilian and son were having a picnic whilst Adrian, looking out to sea, seems to be contemplating what lay ahead for him. - Photo courtesy Philippa Poole

Adrian, like his sister Jean, had a great love of Palm Beach summers which, then, was a bush holiday by the sea place not the fashionable destination of the hoi polloi it was soon to become. 

He was, possibly, the second person to ride a surfboard at Palm Beach;

Adrian Curlewis learned surf-board riding from John Ralston, who had the first surfboard at Palm Beach. Later he bought his own surfboard for £5. 

"It had belonged to Manly swimmer Claude West, who put an ad. in the paper reading: 'Surfboard for sale. Owner in hospital through using same'," Judge Curlewis told me. (Surfboard riding in Australia was only six years old in 1920. The Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku had introduced it to Australia in 1914.) From: The Australian Women's Weekly Saturday 3 February 1951, page 17. 

Adrian Curlewis, circa 1927-30 doing a headstand on his surfboard at Palm Beach - photo courtesy Philippa Poole, daughter of the 'Father of Surf Life Saving'

It was here, after witnessing the drowning of two people, that Adrian formed, with fellow Palm Beach visitors and residents, the Palm Beach SLSC.  

Adrian is at the front right, and this is the shed PBSLSC members had to begin with. 1921: Curlewis family photo

These volunteers saved many lives during their tenure while Sir Adrian went on to become President of SLSAA for forty years (excepting the years at war during WWII) and became the sole Life Governor of that Association from 1974, with his Presidency of the International Council of Surf Life Saving running from 1956 to 1973. 

Adrian’s son Ian and daughter Philippa also were involved in Patrols while growing up and son Ian, an Honorary Life Member, also gave decades of service to Palm Beach SLSC and the movement itself. 

L to R: Bill Tulloch, Ken Coles, Peter Barnes, Pat Barnes, Philippa Curlewis, Jim Tulloch in 1940 – photo courtesy Philippa Curlewis. 

''Other members included Ian Curlewis, Bruce and Laurie Seaman and Pat Tulloch.'' - Philippa to Pittwater Online, 2011.

The JSLSC ran for three seasons and included Australia’s first female Nipper – Philippa herself.

On December 12th 1928 Adrian married Betty Carr, a vibrant beautiful girl, originally from Western Australia, who shared his love of the ocean, its waves and was also quick-minded and instilled in investing in community. Betty (Beatrice Maude), apart from being mum to Ian and Philippa, was one of the ladies who helped organise dances and other functions to raise funds to keep the Palm Beach SLSC going and to purchase much needed equipment during the decades when funds from local councils were sparse.

Enlisting a week before Australia entered the war, Adrian was sent to Singapore on the Queen Mary and was one many who became a POW when the Allies surrendered this port. He kept two secret diaries while in captivity, helped in maintaining the health of fellow prisoners and organised what was known as the ‘Changi University’ which was credited with keeping up the spirits of many men.

Above: Adrian in 1927 the year he was admitted to the NSW Bar. Photo courtesy Philippa Poole (his daughter). 

Below: Adrian in 1945 on returning home. Photo courtesy Philippa Poole.

In 1945 Captain Curlewis returned home after three years in Changi and on the Burma-Thailand railway as a member of the 8th Division. Like many who fought in WWII Sir Adrian strove to fit as much as possible into the years following the war to regain not only time lost but also do what he would have done if not involved in this conflict.  

Above: Adrian on Chinaman's Beach after WWII with his health beginning to return. Photo courtesy Philippa Poole. 

The list of his post-war achievements would take pages to distil but all shine with a determination to rise above the damage war had caused.  

A short precis of these are; being Convenor and Chairman of the International Convention on Life Saving Techniques, which led to the worldwide adoption of mouth to mouth resuscitation, to also fulfilling hands on roles as chairman (1949-71) of the New South Wales National Fitness Council, or as founder (1956) of the Outward Bound movement in New South Wales, and the man who was national co-ordinator (1962-73) of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Australia, and president (1968-84) of the Royal Humane Society of New South Wales, as well as being a District Court Judge (1948 to 1971), demonstrate his dedication to investing in people, in Australia’s development, and a huge capacity for hard work and a driven nature with a deep seated belief in improving humankind. 

As President (1934-41, 1945-75) of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia Adrian never ceased in his insistence that ‘saving lives’ was the paramount achievement of this organisation. 

Fitness in body and mind formed a large part of this.

On becoming a grandfather the haunted look in his eyes in the years following WWII has begun to recede and the smile that was his as a boy returned. 

Pittwater has clearly been enriched in the past by Adrian Curlewis just as Australia still is today. His generous heart, uprightness and integrity even under duress, qualities that were his as a young man and even more evident as an elder, lived in his son Ian and his daughter Philippa and in the legacy of all he brought to Surf Life Saving. 

He was recognised for his devotion to Australia and her people by being knighted in 1967, although Ian told us years ago he did not like to be called 'Sir' - he was a humble, gentle man who simply liked 'getting on with it' and doing what he could to lift others up, quietly, humbly, with great respect for all whom he met as his first approach. 

His nature and perspective lives on in his descendants - they are generous, kind, open and respectful of others - and HUGE supporters of the Surf Life Saving movement.

To Pittwater, Palm Beach, and Australia’s down to earth and ‘get on with it’ peoples he remains 'Mr Surf Lifesaving' and to many the 'father of surf life saving'.

Facts and figures of annual reports do not make history, nor do they make the Surf Life Saving Association. It was the joy of living, the joy of the sea, and a joy in challenging nature with a life to save a life, with a certain knowledge that win or lose there would be no reward. That made the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia. Here lies the treasure.’ - Sir Adrian Curlewis

Palm Beach SLSC Carnival. This R&R squad competed in the first Surf Carnival to be held at Palm Beach on 1/1/1923 - Adrian is on left at back -  Photo taken by Leon Cayley, courtesy Philippa Poole

Greeting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip at Bondi, March 1954

L to r: R.I.P. - Ian, Adrian, Betty and Philippa at Mosman when Philippa's book  'Of Love & War' was launched. Photo: Curlewis family.


A few photos from the 12th edition of the Adrian Curlewis:

Report/photos: A J Guesdon