Safe and shore

Bunbury Surf Life Saving Club members. In 1958 this group of seven were training for their Bronze Medallion.
If you can’t beat it, record it. Poor swimmers like me are unlikely to be much use in the sea. We won’t drown but you wouldn’t want to be relying on us to help someone in trouble.

So I’ve been busy recording the moods, dangers and changing faces of the sea, as author of the centenary history of the City of Bunbury Surf Lifesaving Club.

I have listened to dozens of current and former members recount their challenges, triumphs and wrestles with an ocean that can be observed, assessed, entered and harnessed. But never tamed. Even by the strongest members of this or any other surf lifesaving club, never tamed.

Watching swimming events, even during the Olympics, has never appealed to me. The pool is just a two-dimensional platform for athletes to put their strokes on display. The sea, however, is another whole dimension. One morning, calm, choppy by tea time. Rips that we may call treacherous but are in fact just the sea demonstrating its power. It is up to the person acting as sweep, for example, to adjust to wave conditions and get his or her boat crew home safely. First to the line, perhaps, but mainly it’s about safety.

“For those in peril on the sea . . . “

I remember, delving into my mental cupboard of school assemblies past, the words of the hymn. Bunbury, like hundreds of other coastal communities in Australia, has a legion of volunteers to answer the call. For keeping peril at bay, we owe them.