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Surf Lifesavers Club


The Surf Club at Woorim has been a popular destination for tourists and locals on Bribie Island since 1933.

The first lifesaving patrols on what was then the Ocean Beach at Woorim took place in the summer of 1923-1924.

The initiative to set up a lifesaving patrol came from the company which carried the holidaymakers to the beach in the first place - the Brisbane Tug Company Ltd which became the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company Ltd in 1911. The company had secured a lease of land at Bongaree for its jetty (built in 1912) and a similar lease of land for a road to the Ocean Beach at Woorim.

After World War One, the popularity of a holiday trip to Bribie had increased significantly and the beach at Woorim attracted increasing numbers. This was particularly so after the road from the jetty at Bongaree to Woorim was completed in 1924. With a commendable sense of responsibility, the steamship company accepted the demand for some surf supervision. The company secretary contacted Mr. Francis O. Venning (Secretary of the Royal Lifesaving Club) seeking support to patrol Ocean Beach during the Christmas Holidays. Venning discovered that two employees of the steamship company, Harold and Bert Blake, who were working on the construction of the Bongaree-Woorim road, already held Royal Lifesaving Certificates and were prepared to patrol the beach. The Society delivered a reel in time for the Christmas holidays of 1923-1924 and the Blakes went on to perform first surf patrol at Ocean Beach.

In 1924 the Metropolitan Life Saving Club was formed in Brisbane with its base at the Ithaca Baths in Paddington. Members would train at the baths and be available for weekend patrols at the surf beaches. Since the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company was still interested in a more formal arrangement to patrol the beach at Bribe, an approach was made and the Metropolitan Life Saving Club agreed to take responsibility for this patrol. The steamship company in turn provided the transport and purchased a reel line and belt. Three years later in 1927 a basic club house was built followed with the addition of a kitchen and verandah in 1930. Already there was a timber lookout and bell tower although the structure fell victim to heavy seas in 1940. These arrangements remained in place until 1933 when Metropolitan Life Saving Club was transferred to Caloundra to patrol King’s Beach.

The void at Bribie was soon filled and in October 1933, in time for the summer season that year, the Bribie Island Surf Lifesaving Club was officially formed. The club house was handed over the new entity and the new club was affiliated with the Royal Lifesaving Society.

In 1942 the Department of the Army closed Bribie Beach to the public and requisitioned the club premises and most of its equipment including two reels, one surfboat, two surf skis and the gramophone.

At the end of the war in 1945 the Mirimar and the Mirabel resumed passenger trips to the island but it was a slow return to life for the surf club. For the 1947-1948 season there were only five active members but the club still managed to resumed its surf patrols. The club house, in a poor state after the war, was gradually repaired with broken glass replaced, the enclosure of the below floor level and a new watch tower erected. The Caboolture Shire Council gave some modest support and the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company offered generous fare concessions to club members. In the midst of recovery however came a serious setback with the loss of the Pacific Paradise Guest House as well as the general store and Post Office at Woorim in a fire in June 1949. The Guest House had provided the club with its electricity and water supply.

Reflecting the increasing popularity of the island, the Bribie Island Surf Club entered a new era of relatively growth from the 1950s. Access to the island was still difficult for supporters who came up from Brisbane, and apart from the regular boat service now provided by Hayles Cruises, the barge was the only alternative.

The 1960s saw the club come into its own. The opening of the bridge in October 1963 solved the persistent problem of transit to the island. The following year fire destroyed the clubhouse and much of its equipment. A public appeal for support was positive and work soon began on a new clubhouse which cost £14,000 and included a kitchen and dining room, a first aid room and dormitory accommodation for twenty-five. To mark the opening of this new club house in October 1964, a surf carnival drew huge numbers to the island. Two years later the improved facilities allowed the start of a Nippers Club. The Nippers, with the strong parental involvement in support and fund-raising activities added to the Club’s growth.

The years that followed were years of sustained growth. Membership grew and the funds began to ensure the viability of the club. In 1972 the club was able to celebrate fifty years of patrol at Woorim.

Written by James Mason from information sourced from Bribie Island Surf Club publications and BIHS database.

Further information:

Bribie Island Historical Society Blogspot

The History of the Bribie Island Surf Life Saving Club – 75 years (publication)

The History of the Bribie Island Surf Life Saving Club – 80 years Pictorial (publication)

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