Following their return from active service in the Great War, a group of Woy Woy residents who commuted by steam train from Sydney, decided that due to its popularity, it was necessary to have a surf club operational at Ocean Beach.
While the club had been operating informally for a couple of years, and from amenities blocks at the end Trafalgar and Sydney Avenues from October 1921, it wasn’t until Sunday 29 January 1922, that the Ocean Beach Woy Woy Surf Life Saving Club was “officially” established. With President Charles Staples at this meeting, Wal Dawson, who was a past Vice-Captain of Coogee Club, was elected as the inaugural Secretary. In attendance were Norm Heywood, Harold Murray, Alex Bourke and Don Monteith. Wal Dawson was obviously an enthusiastic lifesaver, being Secretary from 1921-22-23, Treasurer 1923-28, Club Captain in 23-24 and Boat Captain in 1928.
It is recorded that Ocean Beach Woy Woy, Ocean Beach Ettalong and Ocean Beach was corresponding with Head Centre, the then controlling body of surf lifesaving in Australia. On 20 March 1920, a lifesaving demonstration was conducted by visiting lifesavers and officials. The Gosford Times issue of 25 March 1920 reported in detail on this historic event. It was reported that “between 200 and 300 people witnessed the demonstration of Surf Lifesaving at Ocean Beach Woy Woy, on Sunday last. The weather was perfect and both local residents and visitors took a great deal of interest in the display.”
The Ocean Beach Life Saving and Recreation Club, and the visiting team which consisted of leading members of several metropolitan life saving clubs arranged the exhibition. Mr. CHG Merrett, the Honorary Instructor-in-Chief of Surf Life Saving NSW, was manager of the team which was accompanied by DD McIntyre, the Honorary Secretary of the Surf Life Saving Association and R Middleton, Association Press Representative. The President CR Staples welcomed the team. Charles Staples was a long-term councilor on Erina Shire Council, was president of many organisations on the Woy Woy Peninsula during this period as well as being the local coroner.
Messrs, Merrett and McIntyre spoke in glowing terms and suggested the Club “had a splendid beach for surfing and a number of enthusiastic members of the right type to make efficient life savers.” This was the catalyst for life saving on the Ocean Beach and the Central Coast. At this demonstration, Mr. Merrett referred to the “fact that municipal bodies around Sydney were doing everything to encourage the formation of life saving clubs on the beaches within their areas and to provide proper apparatus in the form of reels and surf boats. He pointed out that the Life Saving Clubs were doing humanitarian work in making the beaches safe for bathers and trusted that the Ocean Beach Club would receive all the support its efforts deserved.”
The first surf carnival held on the Central Coast was at Ocean Beach on the 5th January, 1923.
The first Bronze Medallion was obtained by KG Henkel on 6 December 1925. He also was the first club member to obtain his Instructor’s Certificate on 4 April 1926, when the first squad was put through for their Bronze exam. This squad comprised A. Bowker, Vic Henkel, J Morris, Norm Podmore, George Reeves and George Retford.
It was during the first squad exam that our association with Freshwater SLSC was established. The Surf Life Saving Association on instructional work sent a team of members from Freshwater to Ocean Beach Woy Woy. The team also took part in a surf carnival in which the prizes they won were pooled to purchase a cup for competition among Ocean Beach members. It was known as the “Freshwater Cup”. Because of this involvement, and the association of the Coogee Club through their former Vice Captain, Wal Dawson, Ocean Beach adopted its club colours: the two blues of Coogee and the maroon of Freshwater.
During the following seasons, one can only imagine the hardships that the membership must have endured, not the least of these was transportation. Most complained of the road conditions or, more accurately, the lack of road conditions. It was around this period that the Great Depression started, which would have seriously limited the fund raising ability of the club members and supporters.
In 1938-39 it was decided to drop the “Woy Woy” from the title and thus the club became Ocean Beach SLSC. Due to confusion with an “Ocean Beach” at Manly, the club became known as Ocean Beach-Broken Bay SLSC from 1939-40, the name kept until the mid-1970s, when by common usage it reverted to Ocean Beach SLSC.
From the late 1930′s until 1945, the club owed a great debt of gratitude to the women of the district filled the breach left by the departure of the young men of the community for active war service. From newspaper reports, in the formative years, the membership embraced the concept of life saving, patrolling of the beach, competing strongly and having a strong social side to the club’s activities.
The council’s building inspector was at the April 1950 meeting and advised that a new clubhouse and shelter shed was proposed to council. This vexing issue was protracted and it was some six years away from fruition.
1952-53 saw the allocation of a block of ground on which to elect a Clubhouse. However the actual Clubhouse was not opened until 1956-57 by Judge Adrian Curlewis.
In 1956, the required block of land was allocated and tenders were called for the erection of a clubhouse. Member Jim Huntington was successful and stage one of the current clubhouse was erected and opened by Judge Adrian Curlewis.
At mid-night on 1st February 1960 a crew comprising Winston Riley, John Miles, Peter McAsh, Stan Rogerson, and Maurie Hayes performed one of the most hazardous rescues undertaken by the Club. In mountainous seas this crew was called upon to row 1.5 miles to haul three people off the stranded yacht “Thetis”. The Club received a £20 donation and each person in the crew received a meritorious award.
The season of 1962-63 saw the club apply for a 30-foot extension to the clubhouse. Again a protracted dispute was underway and again it took many years to resolve. It was finally accepted by council to build on the Trafalgar Avenue side of the building. The 30 foot extensions were completed in 1968 after much financial and moral support from Rotary.
From these early years until the present day, Ocean Beach SLSC can stand fast on the fact that no lives have been lost while patrols have been conducted on our beach.
In 1995, the constitution was change to reflect the need to have the club administered by a board of directors. The club was incorporated and is now known as Ocean Beach SLSC Inc.
In 2007 the current clubhouse was erected on the Trafalgar Avenue site out of the proceeds of Gosford City Council’s Water Safety Levy.