On Tuesday 28th June 1927 at a meeting in the Mayor’s Parlour, Durban Surf Lifesaving Club was formed. Durban Surf and is proud to be recognised as the first lifesaving club to be formed, not only in Durban, but in South Africa.
In their first year 76 lives were saved by the men in the Red and Black full-piece mohair costumes. And as a rescued bather once remarked, “A gleam of the red bathing-suit, the grip of an arm, brought realisation of hope. “You’re all right. We’re going under this wave, but don t be frightened. I’ve got you.”
Dressed in Red and Black one-piece bathing suits these young men stood guard and at attention while looking over the thousands of bathers that flocked to the beaches on weekends and public holidays. Heroic stories abound about the valour and strength and commitment to the community that these fit young new gladiators reflected.
Toward the end of the Second World War the first family names that would live on for up to three generations were starting to be noticed. Des Collopy and Dennis Cleaver along with others are widely acknowledged as the forefathers of lifesaving, dominating the heroic and much talked about rescues in massive seas and shark infested oceans.
And so the sport of Lifesaving developed from the original drive by the lifesavers to become fit and well versed in difficult and dangerous surf conditions. Within a few years an entire sport had sprung up from this fledgling movement across the globe known simply as the World/National Lifesaving Championships.
In early 1960 one of Durban Surf’s greatest club captains, John Pinchem, mentioned to Pat Dreyer that he had 2 ambitions; For Durban Surf to win the South African Lifesaving Championships 3 years in a row and to take the club on an overseas tour. John never lived to see the day as he died in a fatal car accident however Durban Surf did go on to win, not 3 consecutive South African Championships, but over 40 consecutive titles that stretched well into the new millennium. Russell Cleaver has competed at every one of these bar 2!!
The Durban Surf dynasty had started it’s roll in the sixties led by the irrepressible and legendary Eric Carlson, Lester Kitto and Tony Dumas while the silent assassins, Tony Scott and Dereck Kuhlmey weaved their competitive magic at every conceivable level. In 1966 all the Juniors had been conscripted to national service and Pat Dreyer, through a stroke of genius, signed up Russell and Colin Cleaver along with Andy Sutherland and Guy Nothard who, within months, went on to win virtually every national junior title there was! And so the Mighty Red and Black was formed from a mad motley band of super stars who went on to establish the Legacy of the Mighty Red and Black.
The overseas tour did finally happen and when the sports embargo was finally lifted in 1993, Durban Surf went on to dominate the world by winning 2 World Club Championships in 1998 and 2004, captained and coached by the now SA Swimming coach Graham Hill, Brett Pengelly and Julian Taylor. Durban Surf is the only non-Australian club to have ever won the World Title, and they did it not once but twice!! Durban Surf Lifesaving Club is now a globally recognised powerhouse in the world of Lifesaving.
Behind the scenes of the lifesaving competition came the real purpose of the sport – to be at your very fittest and fastest to save lives on the beach. Durban Surf has for over 85 years been located at North Beach, South Africa, a magnificent playground for ocean and surf enthusiasts. It is one of the primary beaches of the Ethekwini Municipality (often referred to as Durban). All members of a lifesaving club had to commit to a number of days per annum where they gave of their time freely to guard and secure the bathers and beaches from danger and perilous conditions. This once noble profession’s light is fading as Lifesaving Clubs around the world attempt to grapple with an ever changing landscape.
Durban Surf recognises again the role that we as a world class and world renowned Lifesaving Club should be offering the public – that being world class athletes who voluntarily give of their time to honour the noblest of all calls – To save a human life. Vigilance and Service is and will be forever Durban Surf’s clarion call!
For we are proudly Durban Surf, the mighty Red and Black!!!