The history of the Lyall Bay SLSC starts in 1909 when members of the Wellington Swimming Club used to assemble at Lyall Bay beach every week to practice life saving.Members were involved in both patrolling and rescues with three spectacular rescues taking place in large surf at Lyall Bay on Sunday February 20th, 1910.
One person had drifted some distance out to sea and a rescuer set off on horseback carrying a lifebuoy, but was unable to reach the person. Wellington Swimming Club member Mr. W. G. Morpeth swam out and rescued the exhausted person and brought them back to the beach.The second victim lost his footing and was carried out by the strong tide. He was brought back to land by a human chain.
The third incident of the day occurred when a man had his leg broken when he was hit by a large wave. The suggestion was made in The Dominion newspaper the following day that members of swimming clubs should form a life saving corps, with the City Council providing rescue equipment.
The Wellington Swimming club, set up in 1894, had as one of its aims the fostering of humane work, and concerned about a lack of progress on the issue by the Wellington Centre of the NZ Amateur Swimming Association decided at a meeting in July 1910 to set up a lifesaving branch of the club to operate at Lyall Bay. This lead to heated discussions with the Wellington Swimming Centre with headlines in the press recording "A lively meeting", "Trouble over a Surf Club".
However in August 1910 the first life saving reel to be used in New Zealand was
imported from Australia by W. G. Morpeth on behalf of the
Wellington Swimming Club for service with the Lyall Bay club. By
December 1910, with the assistance of a Wellington City Council
grant of £6, Lyall Bay had three reels. This made the club both the
first to patrol and the first to practice surf life saving
procedures in New Zealand.
A clubhouse was built by the Wellington City Council in 1910, but was replaced by a stronger structure when the original one was washed away by a strong southerly storm a few months later.
The origin of modern surfing in New Zealand
Lyall Bay in Wellington also has been called 'the origin of modern surfing in New Zealand' since the legendary Duke Kahanamoku introduced the "royal and noble art" of surfboard riding there in 1915.