GUNNAMATTA Surf Life Saving Club members celebrate 50 years of “saving lives and serving the community” this summer.
The long stretch of beach they patrol at the southern end of Truemans Rd, Rosebud, faces Bass Strait between Portsea and Cape Schanck.
Before the club was established in 1966 many battles were fought between the former Shire of Flinders and the community about whether this area of the coast should even be open to the public as it was regarded as too dangerous for swimming.
There were calls for the council to “close 30 kilometres of coast to avoid drownings” – rather than partially developing the beaches to cater for swimmers without regard for their safety.
In 1963, Truemans Rd was graded as a sandy track to allow access to the beach to “salvage items from wrecked ships” and for fisherman to cast their lines. Public toilets were also built.
With beach access, came swimmers.
And that caused even more friction, with stories of councillors “patrolling” the beach and asking people to leave. Other councillors called for the installation of rocket launchers to rescue those in danger of drowning.
Lifesavers from the Point Leo club made some rescues as they ventured to Gunnamatta for a swim and surf on a good day.
Following several drownings and public concern over the years, Gunnamatta Surf Life Saving Club was established and patrols started in December 1966.
Some foundation members of Gunnamatta came from the Point Leo club. The first clubhouse was a six-car tin shed provided by the Shire of Flinders and set on the edge of the primary sand dune overlooking the beach.
Over the years the club raised enough money to build a new clubhouse on the other side of the dune. It provides accommodation, storage for life-saving equipment and areas for training members – including a large contingent of Nippers.
Last year the club spent more than $120,000 on part of the building that had suffered the effects of exposure to the elements.
Spokesperson Phil Webb says that since its foundation, club members have rescued 4413 people at the beach – an average of 90 a year.
And that is only part of the thousands who have avoided trouble every summer through the efforts of lifesavers taking preventative action, such as guiding them away from rips and dangerous currents, and ensuring they swim between the red and yellow flags.
“The motto of Surf Life Saving Australia is Vigilance and Service. Preventing the need for rescues, and providing first aid and public education on surf awareness, is part of the package offered by lifesavers at Gunnamatta,” Mr Webb said.
One dramatic rescue in December 1975 was captured on film by Mornington Peninsula News Group editor Keith Platt.
The club is seeking to contact those who were part of the club over the past 50 years to join the celebrations. Functions planned to celebrate the anniversary, begin with an open day on Saturday 23 January 2016 at the clubhouse.
The club is also seeking recollections from those who have been rescued or have memories of their time at Gunnamatta.
Sponsors are always welcome as the club recovers from substantial costs incurred with the recent re-building.
Details: Call Phil Webb on 0418 507 883 or email email@example.com