SURF BATHING IN HAWKE'S BAY, 1910
a visit was paid by the late Mr. William Henry (Chief Secretary, R.L.S.S.,
London) to New Zealand, and his visit to Hawke's Bay resulted in many people
securing Awards ot the Society, and from these successes arose the thoughts
that the time was opportune to place on the Parade beaches of Napier equipment
that would assist in efforts to save the lives of bathers in distress.
It is of interest to record the foliowing paragraph of the first annual report ot the Branch, 1910-1911:
"The Health Department
is to be congratulated on the useful poster which has been freely distributed
throughout New Zealand showing the correct and simplest way of restoring
animation in the case of the apparently drowned.
Owing to the treacherous nature of our beach, and the impossibility ot anyone rescuing a drowning person in distress in any of our rough seas, it was deemed advisable to purchase a life-saving reel for use in case of accidents to surt bathers.
The usefulness of these reels, combined with the necessity that our bathers should be well protected, made it clear that it was our duty to have more reels, and three more were purchased. These your executive procured locally and are to be erected along the Parade as soon as possible. Mr. T. F. Taylor kindly presented an additional reel, and, at his request, this will be stationed on the beach at Napier South."
No doubt the presence
of these reels on the beaches of Napier and the excellent work undertaken
by members ot the R.L.S.S. and Swimming Association of those early years
induced Mr. W. Nelson to present the Shield.
For record purposes the list of officers and offcials of this progressive branch ot the R.L.S.S. for the year 1910-11 is given:
Patron, His Most Gracious Majesty the King; vice-patron, Mr. R. D. D. McLean; president, Mr. J. Vigor Brown, M.P.; hon: life members, Messrs. J. V. Brown, M.P., and E. W. Knowles; vice-presidents, Messrs. C. H. Edwards, F. Moeller, ...
From the Past
"I have watched
the practice of a team on the beach for the past week.
Surf bathing, which is a most popular sport, is not without its dangers.
The reels are just what has been wanted for this beach, as there is such a sudden drop, with a strong backwash top and bottom.
Could not the Council see Its way clear to supply four reels, as one is no use on a beach like this. They could have one at the baths, one at the Breakwater, one at Emmerson Street, and one at the end of Marine Parade.
It is well worth seeing the men practising.
The public should support the life-saving men in every way (the voice of 1911 still echoes in 1952) and more especially the swimmers.
There are only a few who have taken to it in real earnest, and we ought to feel proud of having such keen sports among them as two of our leading swimmers - Messrs. Wood and McCartney - who, before the baths were built, were as good men in the surf as are to be found anywhere.
A very strong leg-kick or crawl-stroke is no use in the surf.
There are really good men in Messrs. Robinson, Swain, Hannay, Emerson, Tweedie, Russell and others.
The reels would not want for men, as these would be only too pleased to give their services and to encourage others to take part.
Trusting the Council will make a move in the matter."
Reference in a later section of this "Factual History of Surf" re costumes, worn or not worn, is borne out by Press cuttings of January 22nd, 31st, and March 25th in the local paper under such headings: "Vulgar Bathers," "Fashions in Clothes?" "Coarse Invective," "Bathing and Decency."
These letters were forwarded by "One Disgusted," "The All Together or Not at All," "Decorum," and "Surf Bather."
VISIONS OF THE
PAST-SUGGESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
It may be of interest in 1952 to recall what was suggested in 1911 as a means of life-saving in the surf at Hawke's Bay, and extracts from a letter to the editor, "Daily Telegraph," under ...
... date March 24th, 1911. and signed by Mr. A. Bhezt, is of more than passing interest in the passing parade of surf life-saving activities.
"We read in the
paper just now of a life-saving apparatus on the beaches consisting of
line and reel, which reminds me of a suggestion sent to the "Dally Telegraph"
some time ago before swimming baths were thought of, and when everybody
bathed in the surf, that seemed to us to be simple and sensible.
It was to provide a number of lines or ropes, one end of them to be fastened to posts driven into the beach, the other end to be provided with a broad belt of webbing as a waist-band, having a buckle attached.
If every bather wore one of these there would be no need when a swimmer got Into difficulties for another life to be risked going to his or her assistance.
He could pull himself in by his own rope, or, if too exhausted for that, the man in charge or any observer could pull him in from the beach.
In order that the man in charge should see everything, he should be supplied with strong field glasses.
I have not seen the reel and line arrangement, but understand that it takes three persons to carry out the life-saving process to the person in difficulties.
The fixed rope attached to the bather would simplify matters, and the fact of its being there would give confidence to the swimmer.
The line, webbing and buckle would only cost a few shillings.
YET ANOTHER SUGGESTION
Under date March 26th, 1911, "James Minto" wrote to the "Dally Telegraph":-
of Napier have to thank Mr. Bhezt for his valuable suggestion re life-saving.
In addition to Mr. Bhezt's idea, I would suggest that the caretaker's quarters at the baths be turned into an office for the registration of surf bathers; that each person so registered be given a number which he must wear in a prominent position on his or her costume, this number corresponding with one on a post driven into the shingle on the beach.
Each registered bather would have the exclusive use of one of these posts, with Mr. Bhezt's rope and belt with buckle attached.
I should say that, when the popularity of this scheme is well established, more than fifty of these posts would be required.
Of course, to give Mr. Bhezt and his idea a fair trial, it would be necessary to have ropes of varying strength for bathers of varying weights.
The ropes would have to be of varying lengths, according to the ability of the swimmer.
Whoever was appointed to register members would have to certify to the length of rope to be given, according as to whether a person was a good, bad or indifferent performer In the water.
It is extremely unlikely that the ropes would ever become entangled, as each bather would keep to his or her allotted stretch of water, under pain of being removed from the register and thus lose the privilege of being tethered to these poles whilst bathing.
(This looks like the compiler's dream of water safety.)
However, if such an accident happened, Mr. Bhezt's field glasses would prove invaluable to the caretaker in enabling him to sheet home to the guilty ...
... one the offence
of going beyond his tether.
There is no doubt, Mr. Editor, that this scheme will add greatly to the attractions of surf bathing in Napier, and we might be able to prevail on the Municipality to subsidise the venture, that is, if it will not interfere with the takings at the baths."
NOTES BY THE COMPILER.
In 1952, and accepting the foregoing letters at their face value, the suggestions offered by the "Daily Telegraph" correspondents are appreciated.
The reading of these letters has afforded ample opportunity of gauging the advancement of thoughts and actions in the matter of surf life-saving in New Zealand since the year 1910.
Messrs. Bhezt and Minto recognised that some form of equipment for saving lives on the beaches was necessary, and they fully appreciated the importance of the matter.
The "big things" that we recognise these days as commonplace and necessary had their origin in such thoughts and time as devoted by the writers of the letters above quoted.
It is not surprising that though reel work as known these days was founded in Napier and operated on the Napier foreshore as far back as 1910, it was not until 1934 that the first fully recognised surf life-saving club (Te Awa) was formed.
There is no doubt that both members of the Hawke's Bay Swimming Centre and R.L.S.S. Branch were doing yeoman service in surf bathing instruction during the years between 1910 and 1934, and to them we record appreciation and thanks in this "Factual History of Surf."
The first competition
for the Nelson Shield was held at Napier in 1915 and was won by the Hawke's
Bay team, which consisted of Frank Bridges, J. Y. Hannay, R. Edser, Eric
Amner, Edgar Berry and Angus Russell.
Since 1915 many a sterling contest has been held for this coveted trophy, and Hawke's Bay, being the home of the donor and the first winning team, takes pride of place.
To Mr. D. D. N. McCartney appreciation is expressed for the opportunity of perusing his excellent albums of historical notes of the year that have gone but are not forgotten, and which has given the compiler food for thought and keen interest as the picture of surf life-saving is so clearly depicted in the pages of these valuable books.
Mr. Night McCartney
has played more than a passing phase in the history of swimming and life-saving
in this Province, and had for many a long year been a competent swimmer,
life-saver and administrator.
His contests with Mr. Carl Atkinson (of national fame in swimming and life-saving) makes interesting reading when C. Atkinson represented Canterbury before being transferred to the district that has claimed him as a keen and enthusiastic worker for swimming and life-saving for many years.
ABRIDGED HISTORY OF CLUBS FORMED 1910-12
Unfortunately, space will not permit recording in detail the formation of clubs after the year 1912, but a cover-all record of the formation years of all surf life-saving clubs formed in New Zealand up to the year 1952 is indicated under another heading.
It may be interesting to record here extracts from a southern paper and with appreciation to the writer of the article:-
in New Zealand, on an organised basis, commenced in 1910, taking its cue
from Australia, where surf life- saving clubs had been organised earlier.
Long before that date (1910) surf bathing had been indulged in, but for the most part it was the monopoly of energetic and enthusiastic swimmers, and no hint had yet been given of the general popularity improved transport was later to bring to the pastime.
The surf beaches were, for the most part, remote and accessible only by arduous journeys over interminable sandhills.
There were no facilities of any sort, and, owing to the isolation of the beaches, the swimmers who made use of them were able to pay scant regard to official ordinances as that, in more populous spots, obliged them to conform to certain prescriptions as to costumes.
Costumes were rarely seen on the old-time beaches, where the swimmers disported themselves in the briefest of trunks and baked in the sun-drenched sand hollows, usually in the nude, till they were as dark as Maoris."
From the above extract we have a vivid picture of surf bathing in New Zealand prior to, and during 1910, and judging by some of the costumes seen on some of the beaches in 1952 it appears that we may be going back to the unclad days of 1910.
To endeavour to clarify the priority of clubs, taking into account the first meeting, of whatever nature and how held, as a guide to future operations as a surf life-saving club in the making, we submit the following:-
New Brighton Club
(Canterbury) - July 14th, 1910.
Lyall Bay Club (Wellington) - August 15th, 1910.
Worser Bay Club (Wellington) - December 13th, 1910.
St. Clair Club (Otago) - December, 1910.
Castlecliff Club (Wanganui) - January 5th, 1911.
Sumner Club (Canterbury) - August 25th, 1911.
Maranui Club (Wellington) - October 3rd, 1911.
St. Clair Club. Otago
Mr. E. L. Keogh
forwards some interesting facts regarding the St. Clair Club.
He states: "I was present at the meeting and on the first committee.
Later we had a small box for a pavilion right at the end of the road, with enough room for our
wonderful reel, and all hands (men only) used to crowd in there to dress.
The ladies' committee was formed later.
Both Mr. Macassey and Mr. W. V. Kingston were famous on the running track.
Mr. Stan Isaacs was a great swimmer and diver and a footballer of renown."
He refers to Robbie H. Robertson as the best ex,.. ponent of riding breakers with or without a board that was ever seen.
Roger Dansey was a master of deep water surfing.
It is of interest now to note that a by-law of the Domain Board at that time (1911) actually laid it down prohibiting bathing between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
A story is told
that a constable was instructed to arrest any bather using the sandhills.
Word was quickly passed around, and when the constable arrived at "Sleepy Hollow" there were a couple of hundred bathers waiting to be arrested.
Recognising the futility of his task, the representative of the law wisely decided that he could not arrest over two hundred people at the one time.
However, shortly afterwards the Gurr brothers, who with Mr. Quentin McKinnon, were most prominent, were charged with a breach of the by-law.
Mr. J. F. M. Fraser was consulted, and with the help of Mr. A. G. Fenwick, the Gurr brothers won the case and the by-law became a dead letter.
GEAR-THE ESSENTIAL OF CLUB OPERATION
The following summary of essential gear in the posoossion of surf life-saving clubs in operation is taken from the official survey undertaken by the chairman of the Gear Committee (Mr. A. H. Ross) and appreciation is expressed for the opportunity of including this interesting data in this "Factual History of Surf,"
surf reel covers
surf boat trailers
oars, sweeps, rollicks, etc.
surf canoe trailers
boat life belts
beach box line outfits
beach marker flags
surf patrol caps
alarm bell sirens
club notice boards
surf line drying racks
dress costumes and caps
first aid cabinets "-
first aid portable kits
means of heating
loud-speaker address systems
Year With Line Without Line Surf Ski Surf Boat Canoe Total
During these years no definite official records kept and from Annual Reports,
Culb Reports, etc. the total assessed for these years is
1932-33 10 15 35 (sic)
_____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____
(Totals) 1113 1338 115 9 6 3883
With line , without , surf ski , surf boat , surf canoe , unspecified
1113 1338 115 9 6 26
Add 1911-1932, 1276.
Grand total of rescues to 1951, 3883.
A Factual History of Surf Life-Saving in New Zealand 1910-1952.
The Council New Zealand Surf Life-Saving Association
Hutt Printing and Publishing Works, New Zealand, 1952.