All photos courtesy of Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club
During 1929 investigations started into the formation of a second surf life saving club between the location of the Swansea Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) at Blacksmiths Beach (now the Swansea-Belmont SLSC) and Pinny Beach, a little further south.
A meeting in September 1929 at the Swansea Ambulance Hall, on a section of land now occupied by the Swansea RSL Club, decided a location next to the large natural cave at Caves Beach was ideal.
The club was to be named Swansea-Caves Beach SLSC, now Caves Beach SLSC, with official colours of maroon and white and the motto “Carry on, Caves Beach, Carry on”. With six founding members, their only rescue equipment was reel, line and belt, and shark bell. Amazingly, Ab Payne, the foundation President, never entered the surf, and didn’t even own a pair of cossies! Their only rescue equipment was: 6 members; reel, line and belt; and shark bell.
With no existing dressing sheds, club room or toilets at the beach, temporary facilities were erected with bush poles and flour sacks washed in lime. Funds were raised by selling hot water in a tent on the beach. As only a limited supply of tank water was available from Swansea, quite often the freshwater pools at the top of the cliffs were bailed out, strained and boiled in a 44-gallon drum for selling to the public.
The first building – a tin boatshed was built back against the rockface. Alas, a savage storm with rough seas undermined it, sweeping it out to sea, with boats and everything else stored in it.
Having no permanent storage for the surf boat it was kept approximately 3kms away at Swansea. Firstly, it rested against a fence on Black Ned’s Bay, then Teggs’ garage, followed by Dick Holmes yard near the Swansea Channel. Club members would row the boat from the Channel to the beach at the beginning of the day and row back again at the end of the day.
The first club house was built on the very top of the hill. However, it was a long haul to cart all the gear up and down and it suffered from vandalism due to its isolated position. It became the caretaker’s hut while hard work, fundraising, grants, and royalties from the rutile mining lease saw the club houses (a total of four) improved and progress to what we see today.
All of the first eighteen surf boats for Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club were built locally at Swansea. Built in 1929, the first boat was the “James L Boyd” was designed by James Boyd, a club member and local boat builder at his boat-building yard at Lake Road, Swansea, adjacent to where the James L Boyd Reserve now stands. The second boat was also built at Boyd’s yard. Tom Humphreys then built the next eight boats at his boat yard on Swansea Channel with Colin and Boyd Humphreys building the next seven boats. The eighteenth was built by Roy Phillips.
The Club’s members used to travel to carnivals with surf boat, reels, and gear loaded onto the back of a coal truck. Even though it had been hosed out, when they sat in the back, they still had coal smudged into their clothes. Arriving on Friday nights, our heroes would sleep on hard floors or sand, then up early to compete. A far different cry to air travel, and motel accommodation, while the gear is transported by rail, sea or road. During later WWII and after, Edgar’ Fox’s T model ford truck “Leaping Lena” would carry cases of drinks and sweets for the kiosk and collect helpers along the way to set up the kiosk and have the beach clean for patrols to start at 8am on Sundays; while others rowed the boat to the beach. At the end of the day this process was reversed, ending at 6.30pm.
The 1930’s saw a dashing group wearing maroon and white striped blazers with straw boater hats. Many generations have donned maroon and white colours of a family-oriented club with a proud history of many surf life saving achievements.
You can read more on the Club’s history on https://www.cavesslsc.com.au/our-club-history