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Surfing the waters of time

By Sheree Hoddinett

Going to the beach on Bribie in the early 1900s looked very different to how it does today. Over the last 100 years, Bribie has seen changes in getting to the beach, swimwear and the evolution of the Bribie Island Surf Life Saving Club. But if there’s one thing that remains the same, the beach is still as popular as ever.

Last month, the Bribie Island Seaside Museum showcased a display, along with hosting a program named Life Saving Stories featuring original footage and photos of the surf lifesaving club, courtesy of the Winston Family Heritage Collection. Members of the community gathered to hear and share stories about the many changes the club has seen, along with the infamous Ranger the dog, an honorary member of the club.

Lissa Winston, who many of you may know as a photographer in her own right, proudly spoke about her family’s history with the Island, sharing many images and video footage of open-air buses, swimmers enjoying the water, surf lifesaving training and more, all taken by her grandfather Frank Winston.

“The little details that are in the film, that’s what I love the most and shows the age and timeframe,” Lissa said. “My grandfather was all about the details and just showing the bits of life at the time.

“My grandfather made this particular film out of a number of different films that he took to create it. And of course, it features Ranger the dog. I’m very glad we have been able to share the images of Ranger. He was the mascot of the Bribie Island Life Savers in the 1930s and he was involved in everything with the life savers at the time and an important part of their team.”

Ranger is pretty much a story in his own right, it would seem. Legend has it, when the boats would arrive to the Island, Ranger would be there to greet the new arrivals. He wouldn’t get on the bus with them but would race off, covering the distance to the surf club in the time it would take for the bus to arrive. When the lifesavers were on patrol, so was Ranger - he was first in the water and last out. He had no one owner but was friendly to everyone, locals and visitors alike. When he died in 1936, he was buried in front of the clubhouse with the flag flown at half-mast out of respect for the club’s lost friend and mascot.

Speaking on behalf of the surf club, Mark Harrison detailed the many changes the surf lifesaving club has seen in 100 years. He covered everything from the many building renovations over the years to accommodate the growing club.

“Today, our club stands proud with renovated club facilities in addition of a brand-new state of the art patrol tower,” he said. “Our strong membership from nippers to Old Boys and very dedicated committee members, continue to help drive the club forward, while keeping Woorim Beach a safe place to play.”

Mark also highlighted the importance of female roles growing within the club.

“Our membership includes nippers from about the age of six and we’ve got senior members up to the age of 80 and over 50% of our members are female at this time, which is a great amount,” he said. “We’ve also had a lot of females hold positions within the club and we've had three female life members already. My daughter has also held the position of club captain for three years.

“Bribie Island has a high percentage of women in surf lifesaving. They were only admitted as qualified life savers in 1980. So, it's only been 42 years that we've been allowed to have women in this role, which I think is appalling.

“Today, we have strong female leadership and women holding many senior leadership positions. Patrol captains, club captains, chief training officers, supporters and even president - the surf lifesaving cause is stronger today with the inclusion of females into the ranks.”

With a strong cohort starting all the way from nippers right up to the more senior members of the club, Mark said one of the most important things about obtaining surf lifesaving skills is that it was a skill for a lifetime.

“All of our members gain that experience from surf lifesaving and carry it throughout their lives,” he said. “There's been numerous stories over many years where there's been road accidents, or people passed out on trains or something like that, where a life support has been on hand and they know what to do in that situation. So, it develops your skills and allows you to work with others, to attain common goals, build on good work ethics and reveals great character traits, which everyone benefits from.”

Keep up-to-date with all the latest at the club and upcoming celebrations via their Facebook page Bribie Island Surf Club.

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