The Founding Years of North Narrabeen SLSC
In 1911 the weekend volunteer lifesavers brigade and local residents made an application to Warringah Shire Council to form a surf life saving club on North Narrabeen beach. This original document was signed by Stan Exton, who wrote that a club had been in existence for some time, and that about fifty ‘young chaps’ who were regular weekenders met on the beach and directed swimmers where to swim safely and also to ‘watch over them’.
They referred to themselves as a ‘life saving brigade’ who also provided minor first aid, including applying Reckitt’s Blue Bags to victims stung by bluebottles. These bags were normally used when washing clothing and contained a substance that bleached them brilliant white. Stan Exton also advised that the driving force and main organiser of the existing brigade and proposed surf club was Bill White, whose commitment and dedication to the club in its early years was greatly appreciated by the pioneer members who became one of the North Narrabeen Surf Club’s Life Members.
The application was possibly instigated by the NSW Surf Bathing Commission, which had been lobbied by Warringah Shire Councillor Quirk to fund the building of public dressing sheds and a surf clubhouse at Collaroy, which was still considered part of Narrabeen at that time.
The Collaroy Surf Club had already been formed, but it did not affiliate with the NSW Surf Bathers Association until 1914. During that period, the Collaroy members referred to the North Narrabeen club as ‘the Mouth Surf Club’.
In 1912-13 season, the North Narrabeen SLSC was officially recognised and registered its original coloured cap as navy blue. There was no clubhouse and the few items of lifesaving equipment were kept in a roughly constructed shed attached to the men’s public dressing shed. To build this dilapidated makeshift humpy into a temporary clubhouse, most of the corrugated iron was pilfered by members from the nearby women’s dressing shed, which had deteriorated into a ruined shell. This structure was constantly covered by the shifting sand hills requiring the men and boys to regularly clear away the sand, so that it could be used.
There is no record of the club’s first annual report but the second, compiled by Club Secretary IE Ives, revealed the tremendous progress achieved during the 1913-14 season.
The major problem of a proper clubhouse was solved when Warringah Shire Council provided a building situated at the end of Malcolm Street, about 50 yards closer to the ocean than the present clubhouse.
The club acknowledged its gratitude to the council when the annual general meeting was held in the new building on 15th days later.
The club members had contested surf carnivals at Newcastle, Dee Why and Collaroy. Beach sports and a concert, were organised over Easter on North Narrabeen beach and these were an outstanding success, both financially and socially. Beach activities included the standard surf life saving events, plus other rather unique ones such as a blindfold boxing contest of three two minute rounds, a cock fight, a sack race, a boxing championship with Jack Johnson versus Australia White, and a tug-o-war. The March Past, really more of a street parade, started at Atkins Store on the corner of Emerald and Lagoon Streets and proceeded to the clubhouse. The starter was W Burrows, the judge was G Knight and clerk of the course was E Atkins.
For a fledging club, its financial position was outstanding, even though Australia had just survived a severe financial depression and the World War had commenced in Europe. The Financial Statement showed a credit balance of £17 s16 d8 in club funds. Besides this healthy balance, the club had contributed £10 towards providing a new surfboat for the club and Warringah Shire Council was to provide the balance.
Club President George A King had been part of a committee that provided Council with a design and cost for providing a proper surf craft for surf life saving clubs within the shire. The community had witnesses a number of surf rescues where small rowboats were utilised and the necessity for properly designed boats was realised by the councillors.
The club’s first Captain, Albert Mutkins, had been involved in a heroic rescue involving a small boat off Narrabeen Headland on 12th LF Vaser and Police Constable Shaw, who had gone to Vaser’s assistance. Mutkins was in the water for over two hours, supporting both men until a small dingy came to their assistance. He received a Royal Humane Shipwreck Award for his effort. Mutkins was a top-class body surfer and great friend of Charlie Schultz, who later became a major benefactor of the club and one of its early Life Members.
The need for the club’s new banana-shaped, 20-foot-long surfboat had been emphasised by the ever-increasing number of new residents in the shire and an enormous influx of weekend visitors. Mutkins’ rescue and another by Dee Why club member Jack Taylor with H Duckworth of Maroubra, in which they used a small rowboat to effect a particularly heroic rescue in raging seas off Long Reef on 22nd February 1914. Those rescues increased public pressure for properly designed surfboats. The new surfboat’s design and banana shape was the brainchild of Manly Life Saving Club member Fred Notting, and the first official surfboat race was held at Freshwater in 1915.