History of Lyall Bay SLSC


The Lyall Bay Surf & Life Saving Club, established in 1910, was the first surf lifesaving club to patrol in New Zealand.

The club has been providing a volunteer service focused on saving lives and preventing injury for Lyall Bay and south coast beach users and the Wellington Community over the last 100 years.

Lyall Bay is a very popular beach with families, swimmers, walkers, runners, surfers and windsurfers.
Lyall Bay SLSC lifeguards patrol the beach on Saturdays and Sundays from mid November through to the end of March. Over the last ten years Lyall bay SLSC Life Guards have carried out one hundred and twenty three rescues.

As well as providing a community service Lyall Bay SLSC members compete with distinction at Wellington district and national level, and have held World titles in both Senior and Masters competitions.

Past members of Lyall Bay Surf & Life Saving Club (LBSLSC) have included Cook Strait and English channel swimming legend Phil Rush, record breaking swimming star Rebecca Perrott, and past Governor General Freyberg (it is said that his great swim in the Dardanelles in the First world war could be traced back to his swimming days in the cold waters of Lyall Bay).

The Beginning

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.

Reel Progress

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.