There has always been a division about surfboard riders [and lifesavers]. The surfboard riders don't care about the others. All they want to do is ride surfboards. They forget about the [safety] flags, they surf…through the flags. The surfboats go out and practise to save lives and they might get three or four waves a day so they're not interrupting anything. But the surfboard riders want it all for themselves and bugger everybody else. They should be out getting a job and working instead of being out on the surfboards.
(Surf Lifesaving Official)2
During the course of the twentieth century millions of harried Australians flocked to the beach to escape the stresses, strains and complexities of industrial and post-industrial life. The beach was a sanctuary, a place to abandon cares, to let down one's hair, remove one's clothes and lose one's inhibitions; a paradise where one could laze in peace, without guilt, drifting between the hot sand and warm sea, and seek romance. The beach was life at its most joyful and simplest. But underscoring this apparent haven lay a tension between human urges for unbridled pleasure and social demands for public discipline. 3
The surf lifesaving movement assumed responsibility for mediating this tension. Surf lifesavers not only patrolled sand and surf to protect the unwary and innocent, they also served as moral watchdogs. 4 Thanks to the intervention of lifesavers', wrote the commentator on beach life Egbert Russell in 1910, 'it is rare…that anybody hears of an incident which might not receive the hearty endorsement of the whole Council of Churches'. Among the examples Russell recounted were a 'lifesaver sternly order[ing] a girl to cease from diving from the shoulders of her male escort' and another commanding two youths to 'desist [from]…dragging a third by his heels into the water'. 5 Fearing outbursts of wanton hedonism, the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia (SLSA) initially rejected surfboards as pleasure craft and supported municipal by-laws requiring men to cover their
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Publication information: Book title: Sites of Sport: Space, Place, Experience. Contributors: Patricia Vertinsky - Editor, John Bale - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 115.
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