100 years of
Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club Inc. has a long and proud history and in 2021 is celebrating it’s Centenary of ‘Vigilance and Service’ to the Bundaberg community. This brief history has been prepared with reference to “A Surf Life Saving Saga. The Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club Inc. It’s History 1921-1986.” by Noel F. Bullpitt MBE. The history of any club is about its people and we hope this presents a snap-shot of the many members and hard-working volunteers who have played a role in building Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club over almost 100 years.
A photo titled ‘Squad of 1914’ shows a group of young men, including Fred Amos who became the Club’s first instructor and Captain, on the beach at Neilson Park with a line and reel. Following a fatal drowning at Neilson Park on New Year’s Day in 1916, Woongarra Shire Council offered Amateur Swimming Club volunteers free rail passes to watch crowds at Bargara. Twenty-one proficiency certificates in rescue and resuscitation techniques, including six Bronze Medallions, were presented by the Royal Life Saving Society prior to the Club’s official launch in 1921.
During Easter 1959, the senior march past team secured their place in history winning both the State March Past Championship and gold at the Australian Titles held at Mooloolaba. This added to local celebrations for Queensland’s Centenary, with Bundaberg’s Fred Derrick also winning silver in the beach flags at the same Australian Titles.
Bundaberg went on to win a total of fifteen Australian March Past Championships including four in a row from 1959-1962 and again in 1982-1985. The early 1960s saw Bundaberg also recognized as producing some of the best beach sprinters in Queensland. The senior beach relay team won gold at the Queensland Championships in 1960, silver in 1961 followed by five consecutive State gold medals from 1963-1967 and three Australian bronze medals.
The Bundaberg Junior Boat Crew won the 1964 Australian Championship held in Collaroy and Ivan Rojahn was invited to join the State team after his success in the board championship events at the Queensland Titles. Additions and renovations were made to the club house in 1966 with a boat shed added for two surf boats, boards and skis.
In 1966-1967 a ‘nippers club’ was formed with Jack Simmonds acknowledged in the Club’s annual report for his work in establishing a junior program. In 1969 Queensland’s only Australian gold medal in Hobart, was won by Bundaberg’s Kev Wood in the pillow fight championship.
1970 heralded the start of Bundaberg Club’s Annual ‘Summertime Queen Competition’ as a major fundraiser in conjunction with the ‘Mobil Red Flying Horse Golf Event’ held at the Bargara Golf Club. The first ‘Summertime Queen’ was Alison McKeon and the competition continued for the next fifteen years, eventually moving to the Bundaberg Civic Centre.
The early 1970s is considered the era in which Bundaberg’s ski paddlers achieved notable success in the competition arena. The 1971 State double-ski gold medal was won by Ivan Rojahn and David Slaughter, with Trevor Christensen taking out the junior single ski gold medal and Bob Trask the bronze in the same event at the Queensland State Championships. The Bundaberg Ski Team of Ivan Rojahn, David Slaughter and Jeff Williamson won the Queensland Ski Teams Championship. In 1972 the Ski Team went on to win the Australian title at Blacksmith’s Beach NSW, while Ivan Rojahn and David Slaughter won the Open Double Ski event, Trevor Christensen the silver in the junior single ski and Jeff Williamson the bronze medal in the Australian single ski event.
A remodelled club house was opened in September 1972 and in 1973 Bundaberg had two new beach event champions to add to the photo gallery. Gary Anderson won the Queensland and Australian Cadet Beach Sprint and Beach Flags events and Paul Taylor the Queensland and Australian Junior Beach sprint events and the Queensland Flags Championship. He also placed third in the Australian Junior Flags Championship held in Adelaide that year. Bundaberg Nippers won their first State gold medal in March Past at the Queensland Championships coached by Allan Jacobsen. This success was repeated in 1975 and junior club membership grew to more than 80 male competitors.
The “Noel Bullpit” surf boat was christened in 1975 and the Management committee also purchased a one-tonne truck, ski trailer, new skis and boards as ‘Bingo’ revenue continued to provide major financial support. In 1976 Wellington Surf Life Saving Club visited Bundaberg with a team of twenty men and thirteen women. A carnival was arranged, but SLSQ at the time had no provision for female competitors. An invitation was extended to the Brisbane Ladies Royal Life Saving Clubs for female competitors to join the carnival. That day a thirteen-year-old Bundaberg athlete won the women’s surf, belt and rescue tube races and board event. Michelle Pearson went on to represent Australia in swimming and she is still a ‘nipper Mum’ and active member at BSLSC.
In 1977 the Club purchased their first Inflatable Rescue Boat and radios, there were thirty-three entrants in the ‘Summertime Queen Competition’, Bundaberg’s Junior R & R Team won the Queensland title and a silver medal at the Australian Titles at Bancoora VIC, and Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club volunteers commenced patrols at Kelly’s Beach.
In 1979 female members or ‘nipperettes’ were invited to join junior activities, BSLSC extended their training to include community awareness and instruction in beach safety, rescue and resuscitation techniques and five members achieved State Representative Honours during the year. These included Ian Wright, David Slaughter, Ivan Rojahn, Gary Nixon and coach Rex McGlynn. Kerry Collins, Paul Wessel and Trevor Christensen were part of the Queensland Country Team that competed in Trans-Tasman events. Michael Dunn won silver in the cadet single ski event at the Australian Titles after an unbeaten run in Branch and State Championships.
In 1980 Surf Life Saving Australia approved full active membership status for females and six women obtained their Bronze Medallions as members of BSLSC. The Club’s junior ski champion Michael Voysey was selected in the Australian Junior Kayak Team to tour Bulgaria. Major extensions were made to the club house in 1981 and Melinda Rojahn won the ‘Summertime Queen Competition’ and went on to win the 1982 ‘Queensland Surf Girl Quest’ and ‘Miss Queensland’ titles. The Club was incorporated in 1983 and the president of the nipper club was invited to sit on the Management Committee as part of the amalgamation of junior and senior clubs across Queensland.
Sue McCullough won the ‘Queensland Surf Girl Quest’ in 1984 bringing the honour to Bundaberg for the second time in three years. A new surf boat was purchased and the junior boat crew won a silver medal at the Queensland Championships. Ian Wright won silver in the Champion Lifesaver event. At the Annual General Meeting Mrs. Phyllis Asmus was elected to the position of Club Secretary and Noel Bullpit MBE was awarded membership category of ‘Life Governor’, the first for a Life Saving Club in Australia. In an effort to ensure the continued success of bingo, the club entered into an agreement with Shalom College for combined bingo games at the Bundaberg Civic Centre.
In 1985 the junior boat crew rowed their new “Esso” boat to victory at the Queensland Championships. The cadet beach relay team won gold, Ian Wright achieved silver in the Champion Lifesaver event and Michael Teasdale won bronze in the cadet beach sprint. Kerry Collins was rewarded for his hard work as the Club Chief Instructor and received the ‘Queensland BP Lifesaver of the Year Award’ and in 1986 ‘National BP Australia Lifesaver of the Year’ winning the Club a fully-equipped IRB.
At the 1986 Queensland Championships Nicholas Woods won the cadet beach flags and placed third in the beach sprint final. The Junior boat crew won silver, Kerry Collins won the Champion Lifesaver award and Chris Duffy was awarded silver in the Junior Champion Lifesaver event. Nicholas Wood and the junior boat crew missed their events at the Australian Titles in Adelaide that year due to an airline strike which delayed the team in Melbourne. At the Junior State Championships, Bundaberg brought home five individual gold and one bronze medal and two gold medals in beach relay events.
Liz Sauer was chosen as the Club’s entrant and went on to win the 1988 ‘Queensland Surf Girl Quest’. Nicholas Woods won bronze in the Australian Junior Beach Sprint Championships after medalling in the beach sprint and beach flags at the Queensland State Championships at Kurrawa. He was awarded “Competitor of the Year” at the Annual Dinner. The Bundaberg Inshore Rescue Boat Team won the A Grade Teams rescue race at the State IRB Titles.
Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club March Past Team was inducted into the Australian Surf Life Saving Hall of Fame in 2004 for their achievement of 17 Australian titles between 1959 and 1989. Noel Bullpitt MBE managed, coached and co-ordinated all teams during this time. He was President of BSLSC for 41 years and passed away in 2013 at the age of 100.
The earliest March Past photos date from 1929 and Bundaberg hosted the Queensland Championships in 1935 and again in 1938, winning the 20-man State March Past Championship at the carnival.
In 1941, ‘a limited number of 15’ women were invited to join the Club as ‘social’ members. Fundraising efforts went towards hampers for members serving overseas during World War 2. In the same year, Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club purchased its first new surf boat christened “Barney McLean”. In 1945 the original wooden Club House built pre-war, was altered and extended and during Easter 1947 Bundaberg entered their first Australian March Past Championship competition held at Southport.
Saturday patrols were introduced in 1948 following the introduction of the forty-hour working week. The State Championships were hosted again in 1951 at Neilson Park and the ‘lightning bolt’ logo became part of the uniform for the first time. Bundaberg won its second Queensland March Past Championship in 1952 and it’s third in 1954. A ‘permanent lifesaver’ position for the Christmas school holiday period was funded by the Bundaberg City Council and Woongarra Shire Council. “Chook raffles” at the Palace Hotel proved to be one of the best fundraisers for the Club during the late 1950s and in 1957 a new brick club house, which forms part of the southern end of our current building, was opened. During the 1957-58 season, Bundaberg had eighty-six active members, won its fourth State March Past Championship and placed second in the State R & R Championship. The following year, they won both the Senior and Junior R & R State Championships and the right to represent Queensland at the Australian Championships in Perth where the Senior team was awarded the Runners-up trophy.