Up until 1902 daylight bathing was prohibited by law in New South Wales. In one instance on Saturday 13th January 1902, William Petherbridge – resident of Pacific Street, Newcastle – took out a summons against a pair of sea bathers who were subsequently found guilty and each fined 10 shillings.
Despite this proscription, surf bathing became increasingly popular at Newcastle Beach and other locations, even moreso with the lifting of the old ordinances in 1902. The immediate proximity of Newcastle Beach to bustling local shops, offices, transport hubs, residences and the Royal Newcastle Hospital made it a popular spot for everything from a lunchtime dip to a ‘day at the seaside’ for crowds on weekends and throughout the summer.
However Newcastle Beach presented significant risks to the increasing beach-going populace. The first shark attack in the district had occurred at Newcastle Beach in 1894, when Horace Hewison was seized. Further, the open and unprotected nature of the beach meant that the inexperienced bather was liable to be carried out.
This culminated in a series of tragic drownings in the summer holiday period of 1907-1908 which very quickly led to the formation of the region’s first ‘surf life saving’ club, Newcastle SLSC in 1908.
Since that time Newcastle SLSC has continued to provide volunteer surf life saving services to the community at Newcastle Beach.
The celebrations marking the 75th Anniversary of our club were accompanied by a fantastic booklet detailing the history of the club to date, prepared by then-President John Jenkins.
This booklet is an excellent read for anyone interested in the history of our club, Newcastle, and the broader surf lifesaving movement.
Today Newcastle SLSC is a strong and diverse community organisation. We carry forward the mission of the surf life saving movement, and continue to grow and adapt to best serve the needs of our local community.
Our volunteer members are engaged in regular lifesaving patrols, training, and flood relief assistance.