History of Surf Rescue

No truer words were ever spoken...Look at the surf lifesavers of Australia; they pay a subscription to their clubs for the privilege of risking their necks to save others." The words came from His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, the patron of Surf Life Saving Australia, describing the uniquely Australian concept enshrined in the creed 'vigilance and service'.

Since its birth in 1907, the association's surf lifesavers from 254 clubs and a total membership of 66,000 have carried out more than 350,000 rescues per year. The total value of rescue equipment alone runs to multi-millions of dollars. Patrols are the most important ingredient of surf lifesaving. Surf lifesavers, easily identified by their red and yellow quartered caps, patrol beaches on weekends and public holidays from October to Easter. These beach patrols are backed by a sophisticated network of aircraft, helicopters, marine power craft and communications.

The movement had its birth early this century and it took a series of unusual events and some colourful characters to help get it started.Surf bathers first ventured into our seas in the 1880s and 1890s, but government regulations forbade bathing between 6am and 7pm. Undeterred by the restrictions, a Manly newspaper editor William H.Gocher championed the surfers cause in 1902. He announced he would surf at noon on various Sundays. The police apprehended him but did not lay charges. Finally, in 1903 the authorities began amending their restrictive laws on bathing hours. Some limitations still prevailed. Costumes had to be neck-to-knee and women were not allowed to expose their breasts.

Surf bathing boomed as Australia invaded the sea, so too did the risk of drowning. Early attempts at surf rescues were clumsy, even using the "living chain" of hands from the beach. Boats were engaged but rough seas frequently foiled their attempts. Later thick coir ropes, to which heavy belts were attached, were introduced but they proved very cumbersome.


The Surf Live Saving Association

Groups formed together to establish clubs at various beaches. Bondi, a small village with scattered camps, founded its club in February, 1906. There exists great debate over whether this was the first one or whether credence is given to the claim that a Mr Biddell formed the Bronte Life Saving Brigade in 1903. To achieve central control over the clubs, to formulate and develop rescue methods, club delegates decided to form an association in 1907 : the Surf Life Saving Association (SLSA).


Australian Surf Life Saving Championships

The Australian Championships became, and still are, the climax of a busy season for surf lifesavers. They are the 'big one' at the end of every season when clubs and individuals pit themselves against the elements and their peers to prove they are the best rescue and resuscitation outfits, iron men, swimmers, boat crews, march past teams, ski paddlers, board riders or runners. These championships are not just concerned with competitions, they also provide an opportunity to display to the public the discipline, technique, alertness, and raw courage which sets these young men and women apart as life support servants to the community.

The Australian titles date from the first 'New South Wales' or Association championships at Bondi Beach, Sydney, in 1915. With the exception of the two World War years, they have continued uninterrupted at the end of every season. A great boost for Surf Life Saving Australia in 1992 was the promise by Kellogg's Nutri-Grain of a 5-year sponsorship worth $100 million, pledged in recognition of the humanitarian community service provided by the association. Today Australian Championships involve nearly 5000 competitors contesting up to 70 events.

As part of the work on the beaches, the inflatable rescue boats were introduced in 1978. The Inflatable Rescue boat has turned out to be the quickest and safest method of Surf Life Saving in Australia. Today over 300 Surf Clubs throughout Australia use IRB's (Inflatable Rescue Boats) as the primary rescue service for Australian beaches Royal Life Saving also purchase the same IRB's for such calm water beaches as on Port Phillip Bay.

Achilles has been part of the surf Life Saving scene since 1982 and their innovative design and technical improvement are reflected in their exceptional results in every IRB, competition.

The IRB racing was developed in order to practice rescue using IRB's. The format of events involves skills of rescue as well as driving of the IRB's. Due to the insurance problems, IRB racing has been modified in order to make sure that skills and abilities are foremost and that speed of recovery and safety become the main goals.


Achilles IRB Developments

ACHILLES are by far the most popular IRB's on the market with 5 different models:

  • SSL-375:: THE POCKET ROCKET is the fastest and most popular soft hull on the market. It is the model that most clubs use for racing (Over 1000 sold to the surf life-saving clubs since 1982).
  • SSL-385:: This model is a great patrol boat, and is longer and more buoyant than the POCKET ROCKET.
  • RH-375:: This is the POCKET ROCKET converted to have a rigid hull with all the speed and quick maneuverability of the SSL-375. But it is more durable especially for running up on the sand and also turns more quickly.
  • RH-385:: Same as the RH-375 except the length is 3.85m.
  • CH-385:: Is 3.85m long and has a load capacity of 875kg with a Cat Hull.

Achilles is very proud to be selected as the provider of inflatable rescue boats for the Telstra Grant. There are very good reasons why Achilles has been chosen as the IRB for this world IRB competition.

Fabric: Experts agree that DuPont Hypalon is far and away the best fabric preservatives for inflatable boats. Hypalon resists abrasion, oil, gasoline and weathering much better than plastic or other types of materials used on inflatables. But all Hypalon fabric is not the same. Achilles manufactures its own Hypalon fabric instead of buying if from a mass distributor as do most other Hypalon inflatable boat companies. This way Achilles oversees quality control from start to finish, insuring consistency of fabric to the company's exacting specifications. The result is a consistently higher quality fabric that has been tested and proven over the years.

Construction: Every Achilles boat is hand glued to insure solid seam construction. Seam and transom failure represent the most common problems in inflatables. Hand gluing takes more time, but Achilles feels it is worth the effort so that each seam can be inspected and tested. Achilles also takes the time to overlap each seam a full inch (others overlap seams as little as a half inch) and reinforce them with seam tape both inside and outside. Most other companies do not take this extra step. Transoms on Achilles boats are further reinforced with a unique Neoprene rubber mould and transom tape. The result is the most solidly constructed inflatables in the industry. This is why no other inflatable manufacturer offers a better warranty on seams. The hijackers for the cat hull are made of 2 ply fabric. All other parts of the boats are made of 1100DTX core fabric.

Warranty: Here in Australia, Achilles offers a warranty whereby the fabric is guaranteed to hold air for 10 years. Also, the Achilles company guarantees the seams to hold air for 5 years.

If you wish to receive more information about the surf rescue IRBs . Please contact Achilles Australia (Bursill sports gear Pty Ltd) by email: susan.bursill@icloud.com, grahambursill@bigpond.com , Tel:+61 2 96988022, Mail: P.O. box 1656 Strawberry Hill NSW 2012.