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The Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club’s origins can be traced back to December 1922 when the first beach surveillance was carried out at what was then known as “the Heads’’.

This was an initiative of the Mooloolah River Sports Club formed three years earlier by a group of Buderim farmers. Prompted by a sense of civic duty, they decided to expand their focus from purely recreational pursuits to oversee beach safety for the growing number of Buderim families who holidayed at the bay every year.

Guided by the Royal Life Saving Society’s Frank O Venning, they began training and, by Easter 1923, were conducting regular beach patrols under the banner of the Mooloolah River Sports and Lifesaving Club. In the first 18 months, members accrued more than 100 lifesaving awards.

In October 1923 the first “Clubhouse’’ was built; a basic timber shed that was the first lifesaving premises north of Kirra.

Five years later the first sleeping quarters were added – a small extension with six timber bunks.

Key figures during this period were the Club’s first President “Uncle’’ Bill Bell, his successor Percy Jakeman who served in the post for 27 years and long-time Secretary Vince Crosby who, with Frank Venning, are recognised as the Club’s founding fathers.



By 1930 the Club had grown to 70 members, 11 of them women, and had established a distinctive identity with its first club uniforms and its own club badge.

In 1931, after a long struggle for ascendancy, the Royal Life Saving Society amalgamated with the staunchly male-only Surf Life Saving Association of Australia.

This ushered in more surf-aligned lifesaving methods but spelt the death knell for women in lifesaving for the next 50 years.

Milestones during this period included acquisition of the Club’s first surf rescue boat the Spray (the first by any club north of Brisbane) and construction of its first proper clubhouse in 1939, a two-storey fibro building on the present site.

Carol Daley (Bronze 29.12.1940) Lost his life while serving with Bomber command over Malta in 1941

Jack Venning R.A.N. 1940 – 1945

After the outbreak of World War 1, as a growing number of members left to enlist, the Club struggled to maintain patrol numbers. It was felt much closer to home after Japanese attacks in the Pacific in 1941, which led to Mooloolaba beach being marked as a potential enemy invasion point. It was cordoned off with barbed wire and the Clubhouse was commandeered by the army and covered in camouflage netting.

The Club was held together during these difficult years by its President Percy Jakeman, Arthur Parkyn and Bill Daley, both of whom juggled multiple roles and instigated a recruitment drive in local schools that resulted in a much-needed injection of new young members.

The Beginning of a Golden Era


The MSLSC grew strongly in the post-war years, with an influx of Brisbane members who overcame significant logistical challenges, in an era when few people owned cars, to travel to the north coast for their weekend patrols.

Over this period its composition changed from what was originally a fully local club to one dominated by Brisbane-based members.

In 1953 Mooloolaba’s Arthur Parkyn was selected as Vice-Captain of an Australian Instructional team sent to the US in 1953 to teach Australian lifesaving techniques.
He was later invited back to coach US and Hawaiian teams to compete in an international lifesaving carnival held as part of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games program. His influence later led to establishment of the first US national life saving association based on the Australian model.

The 1950s was a golden era for the Mooloolaba SLSC with a run of extraordinary competitive successes that propelled it from a small, relatively unknown club to national prominence.

The pinnacle was its landmark 1955 win in the blue-ribbon event of surf lifesaving, the Senior R&R, which earned it the status of Australia’s Premier Club.

In Search of Glory


This was a period of considerable social and demographic change for Mooloolaba as vast canal estates and apartment developments sprang up, transforming the once sleepy settlement.

Many surf clubs, including Mooloolaba, struggled to attract members during these years as the rise of surfing culture ushered in a new tide of freedom, rebelliousness and individualism that challenged the more disciplined surf lifesaving culture.

A significant development in light of this was the birth of the Nipper movement. Mooloolaba’s junior club, the Mooloolaba Midgets, was established in 1968 by a small Brisbane-based group of families with significant support from key figures in the Senior Club.

This period ended on a devastating note when much of the Club’s 40-year-old Clubhouse was destroyed by fire in March 1979.



The Mooloolaba SLSC began the new decade with just $50,000 in the bank after the insurance payout, no proper Clubhouse and barely 50 members on its books including Life Members.

It was left to a core group of about two dozen regulars to ensure the Club’s survival. In a remarkable effort, they managed to maintain lifesaving services while also carrying out the labour-intensive fundraising needed to rebuild.

In just 18 months this small group managed to raise more than $100,000 allowing the Club to secure the finance needed for the project. Their efforts were rewarded when the new Clubhouse was opened in December 1981, 20 months after the fire.

A very significant development for the lifesaving movement during this period was SLSA’s decision in 1980 to allow clubs to admit women, a move that had previously been trenchantly resisted. In 1987 Mooloolaba then made history when it elected Australia’s first female surf club captain, Cathy Harding.
It was also at the forefront of a revolution in the way lifesaving services were funded when, in 1992, it became just the second surf club in Queensland to establish a Supporters Club, taking advantage of new gaming and liquor licensing laws.

This new revenue stream allowed the Club to build up its surf sports program resulting in a new era of competitive success.

Mooloolaba members were also involved in the successful lobbying that saw the birth of the Masters movement in the 1991/92 season.

This period ended on a high as the Club celebrated its 75 Year Anniversary and published its first club history.



For much of the next decade the Mooloolaba SLSC had the largest membership in the Sunshine Coast Branch and included stars such as Grant Kenny and the Mercer brothers among a strong core of elite athletes.
Showing off the Gold – The 140yrs Womens Beach Relay team of Sue Sheard, Joanne Madden, Tiani Mercer and Chantelle Minter after winning their 2005 National title

A strong focus on Surf Sports netted the Club more than 130 State and 42 National Titles during these years and the title of Queensland’s Champion Club in both 2002 and 2003.

The general membership demographic also changed significantly – the membership base became older and almost exclusively local, with few if any members travelling to do patrols from Brisbane.

The peak lifesaving bodies, SLSA and SLSQ, introduced a number of very significant regulatory changes during this period, which put unprecedented demands on the Club’s administrators and its team of trainers and assessors.

National champions – Second-generation members Deon Gordon and Nathan Day celebrate their 1999 win

Mooloolaba’s first National Ski Relay title winners at Kurrawa in 2000. From left, Martin Kenny, Steve Meredith and Simon Martin

Many new advanced awards were introduced and a major overhaul of all training was implemented in 2005 to bring it in line with the nationally uniform standards that applied across industry.

As SLSQ sharpened its focus on prevention and expansion of services, a group of Mooloolaba lifesavers signed up for its Emergency Response program, forming an on-call group equipped to respond to out-of-hours emergencies within the local area.

A great highlight for the Club was its 2007 win in the Buhk-Wilkes patrol efficiency competition after it had come 12th in the previous season.

This was a period of the greatest administrative stability in the Club’s history. Key office holders – President, Secretary and Treasurer – had remained in their posts for almost 20 years, holding the same positions in the Supporters Club which, by 2007 had more than 17,000 social members on its books.

Mid-way point – the Executive team in 1999, from left, Barry Beitz, Mark Tibbits, Danny Sheard, Jim Summers, Joe Western and Doug Jewry with Administrator Lorisa Fryer



The Mooloolaba Club continued to flourish on all fronts during the early years of this period – in lifesaving achievement, competition and financial performance.

In a major milestone it was able to purchase a freehold property in 2007, which it managed to pay off about two years later, leaving the Club free of major building debt obligations for the first time in 30 years.

This period included some of the most challenging patrol seasons on record as severe weather events led to record rescue numbers. The Club’s professionalism in dealing with these conditions resulted in it being named Queensland Club of the Year in both 2008 and 2011.

In 2008 Mooloolaba’s strong cohort of Vietnam Veteran members launched its first Anzac Day Dawn Service on the beach, which grew to become one of the most iconic events of local Anzac commemorations. In 2015 more than 10,000 people attended to mark the Centenary of the Gallipoli landing.

Ian Atkinson with his wife Heather and daughter Tanya after the Dawn Service in 2008

A race no one will forget – Cameron Cole winning Mooloolaba’s first National Ironman title in 2013

Mooloolaba’s most successful Masters competitor Rod Taylor in action

By 2013 Mooloolaba’s membership had grown to more than 540 active members making it the largest non-metropolitan club in Australia and the third largest overall.

Its competitive stocks remained strong through this period as generous funding saw the ranks of both competitors and coaches expand and its national championship medal haul triple.

An undoubted highlight was the unprecedented success of Mooloolaba’s female boat crew, which won a World Title and three National Titles in the four years after 2009.

Mooloolaba’s triumphant women’s boat crew after their 2011 National Title win, from left, Leah McKenzie, Summa Callaghan, Brenden Western, Sara Western and Sheryl Beaumont

But by the end of this period the Club had been forced to rethink its focus on competition as serious financial problems emerged and the cost of the program became unsustainable. This decline in the Club’s financial position was directly attributable to the significant debt raised to fund a major Clubhouse renovation carried out in 2011. This had been guided by ambitious consultants’ projections which failed to materialise as market conditions changed.

Bill Bain (right) receiving one of his two Gold Medals at the 2011 Aussies with U17 Ski Relay teammates Jayden Bailey (left) and Jaega Desainis

World Champions – Natasha Harrison, Gemma Newbiggin, Amy Thompson and Allira Richardson after their Ocean Woman Relay in Egypt



At the start of this period the Mooloolaba SLSC was in crisis with more than $6 million still owing on the 2011 refurbishment, a long list of creditors and its future under serious threat.

Mooloolaba put on an impressive show for the 2016 Australian Championships

The single-minded focus of the new Committees that took over the Lifesaving Club and the Supporters Club in mid-2015 was to do their utmost to clear this debt ahead of the Club’s Centenary in 2022. Against the odds, they achieved this. By November 2022 the massive building debt had been fully paid off and the Club was holding very healthy cash reserves putting it an extremely buoyant financial position.

Another medal – the U17 Patrol Competition team after winning Silver at the 2022 Nationals. From left Amy Cridland, Connor Dick, Kiera Bascombe and Rylee Jones

This was despite the serious impact of the COVID crisis which saw both Lifesaving and Supporters Clubs closed completely in early 2020 and restrictions placed on hospitality businesses for much of 2020 and 2021.

Thirty of the 45 surviving Life Members gathered in 2022, with the oldest, Harry Hughes centre front

Gold at both ends of the spectrum: Under-17 competitor Corey Linton after winning the 2017 State Beach Sprint title with dual Masters winner and his coach Craig Parker

During the financial recovery period post-2015 the Club’s focus switched from surf sports, which had previously soaked up the lion’s share of funding, to lifesaving services and members were encouraged to consider what they could do for their club rather than what it could do for them.

Surf sports participation was still encouraged but it had to be self-funded, while the former paid coaches were replaced by a full team of volunteers.

A formidable duo: Champion paddler Bill Bain competing with his sister Kasani in 2016

Starfish Nipper coordinator Stacey Hooper front right during a session on the beach in 2021

Membership numbers plummeted after the 2015 crisis, as elite athletes and their coaches all left, but in this new climate the Club was happy to celebrate fewer but still very sweet successes. These included Bill Bain’s ninth national title win (in the 2017 Open Ski race), Mooloolaba’s first ever national title in lifesaving competition (the U17 Mixed Patrol team in 2021) and Gold-Medal performances by the U19 boat crew and Saul Nicol-Rann (in the U17 2km beach run) at the 2022 Australian Championships.

The triumphant National U19 title winners, from left, Finn Dudin, Jack Fisher, Hudson Duhig, Matthew Tapping and regular sweep Aaron Hetherington

(Explanatory Note – This historical snapshot has been collated from the club’s first 75 years history as told in “Our Club Our Story”. This history is currently being reviewed and updated to produce the Club’s 100 year history in time for the 100 year anniversary celebrations in 2022. This page will be expanded and updated as the project proceeds.

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