DURBAN Surf Lifesaving Club, recognised as the first lifesaving club not only in Durban, but in South Africa, this year celebrates its 90th anniversary.
In its first year, 76 lives were saved by the men in the red and black full-piece mohair costumes. And as a rescued bather once remarked: “A gleam of the red bathing-suit, the grip of an arm, brought realisation of hope. You’re all right. We’re going under this wave, but don’t be frightened. I’ve got you.”
Dressed in red and black one-piece bathing suits these young men stood guard and at attention while looking over the thousands of bathers that flocked to the beaches on weekends and public holidays. Heroic stories abound about the valour and strength and commitment to the community that these fit young gladiators reflected.
And so the sport of lifesaving developed from the original drive by the lifesavers to become fit and well versed in difficult and dangerous surf conditions. Within a few years an entire sport had sprung up from this fledgling movement across the globe known simply as the World/National Lifesaving Championships.
The overseas tour did finally happen and when the sports embargo was finally lifted in 1993, Durban Surf went on to dominate the world by winning two Senior World Club Championships in 1998 and 2004, and most recently the Junior World title in 2016. Durban Surf is the only non-Australian club to have ever won the world title. Durban Surf Lifesaving Club is now a globally recognised powerhouse in the world of Lifesaving.
Behind the scenes of the lifesaving competition came the real purpose of the sport – to be at your very fittest and fastest to save lives on the beach. Durban Surf has for over 90 years been located at North Beach. All members of a lifesaving club had to commit to a number of days per annum where they gave of their time freely to guard and secure the bathers and beaches from danger and perilous conditions. This once noble profession’s light is fading as lifesaving clubs around the world attempt to grapple with an ever changing landscape.
“Durban Surf recognises again the role that we as a world class and world renowned lifesaving club should be offering the public – that being world class athletes who voluntarily give of their time to honour the noblest of all calls – to save a human life. Vigilance and service is and will be forever Durban Surf’s clarion call. We are proudly Durban Surf, the mighty red and black,” said Durban Surf chairman, Andrew Sutherland.