Brunswick SLSC History

Brunswick Surf Life Saving Club was formed at a meeting on Friday 8th November 1935 from a motion that the public of Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads co-operate to form a Surf Club to patrol the south beach at Brunswick Heads.

Membership was set at 25 cents per year and many of the founding members were to become Life Members of the Club and be recognised by SLSNSW for 50 years of service.

The first clubhouse was hessian bags wrapped around tree trunks and used as changing rooms for the club members. Not long after a shed was renovated to store the gear – one reel and line donated by Byron Bay Surf Club.


The first Clubhouse proper was opened in 1939 and the original shed was extended to hold the first surfboat purchased second-hand from Avalon SLSC in 1940. This old boat shed was pulled down and until 1946 the boat was transferred to the beach each Sunday by rowing it around the channel or by carrying it across the footbridge.

The first Surf Carnival was held in November 1935 with teams from Yamba, Evans Head-Casino, Ballina Lighthouse-Lismore and Byron Bay SLSC taking part. As the footbridge was not built until December 1936, the crowd of 400 had to be ferried across the river by a fleet of boats or swim.

The first bronze squad passed with credit in February 1936 and included Ted Healy and Clive Wraight both of whom became life members.

The first clubhouse was constructed in 1939 of two floors of fibro cement at a cost of $2048. High seas and severe erosion caused considerable damage to the building with sandbags having to be deployed on Christmas Day 1950 and as they were washed away, again on Boxing Day. A cyclone developed in 1950 and all gear had to be removed as it was feared the sandbags would not hold. One member, transporting a ski was able to catch a wave washing down the sand track from the clubhouse to the river.

Council commenced to build a log wall in 1951 but due to the pile driving equipment breaking down it was not completed until 1955 when the broken down equipment was finally removed from the beach. Further erosion and cyclones continued to damage the old club house and renovations were carried out in 1957/58.

In 1959/60 the road bridge was constructed to enable the transport of the large rocks for the south wall of the breakwater and for the first time gear did not have to be carried across the footbridge or rowed across in boats. Until this time most surf boats were rowed down the river and out the mouth to get to the beach. The build up of the beach as a result of the break walls resulted in the first telephone being installed in 1964/65.

A tornado type storm hit in December 1964 and caused further damage to the clubhouse, which now had a lean despite being propped up. Plans were drawn for a two-story brick clubhouse and Byron Shire council accepted a tender for $22,000 and the old clubhouse was demolished in August 1968.

The foundations for the new clubhouse were poured in September 1968 and the building was officially opened during a surf carnival on 26 January 1969. In 1975/76 the club purchased their first IRB. In 1980/81 the first official Nipper committee was formed with Byron Bay Nippers paying for the first years affiliation. Fees were set at 50cents with 20 cents to go to registration and 30 cents towards gear purchases – one foam board and one hollow board.

In 1980/81 Brunswick competed in the inaugural IRB State Carnival in IRBs borrowed from Fingal and Ballina clubs (ours was damaged in a rescue) and earned a gold medal in Mass Rescue, a silver medal in the Rescue and 4th in the B grade Mass Rescue. This started a long domination of IRB events for Brunswick on the Far North Coast.

In 1980/81 the first two women passed the qualifying certificate examination of SLSA of Australia. In 1983 nine women became the first female members of Brunswick Surf club to pass their Bronze medallions and in 1984 Byron Shire Council employed the first woman life saver.

In 1988 the Rotary Observation and Communication (Shark) tower was opened and Nippers purchased the large beach tent. In 1987/88 the inaugural Australian IRB championships were held at Cronulla. Brunswick was the only club to qualify in all finals in rough seas. On Sunday Brunswick won four of the five finals and was second in the other but was disqualified for leaving the boat in gear.

In 1988/89 Brunswick was top club in Australia based on gold medals won at all carnivals during the season. In 1992/93 Brunswick Valley Banana Growers donated the Patrol wagon. The extensions to the clubhouse were officially opened in January 1993.

Petria Thomas honoured with 10 year honorary membership in recognition of her achievements in 1994/95. In 1995/96 the extension was added to the upstairs deck and in 1996/97 the First Aid room and canteen was refurbished. This is the Club as you see it today and currently there are plans for major extensions, which are awaiting approval.

2001/2002 saw three major donations, the first being a club 4WD ute made available through a program by General Motors Holden and purchased with the generous donations of Tony Carsburg Holden and the Hotel Brunswick. The State Government of NSW donated gear to most clubs in NSW and Brunswick was lucky enough to be given a fully equipped quad bike - first aid gear, a rescue board, tube and radio – and a fully equipped IRB – engine and radio.

Taken from Reg Byrnes books ‘1935 – 1985 The First Fifty Years’ and ‘1985 – 1995 The Next Ten Years’ with Nipper information provided by Julie Baines

75th Anniversay Books

75th anniversary books are still available for $20. The 75th anniversary book celebrates 75 years of the Brunswick Surf Club over 3 chapters:

  • 50 Years of Service 1935-1985 by Reg Byrnes
  • The Next 10 Years 1985-1995 by Reg Byrnes
  • Looking Forward Looking Back - The Last 15 Years 1995-2010 by Ray Linabury.