The origins of surf lifesaving can be traced back to the actions of Mr William Gocher who, in September 1902 at Manly Beach, defied the law by bathing during the prohibited daylight hours. His action and similar actions by other people forced authorities to confront the issue of daylight bathing and, when these laws were repealed, swimming at the beach began to grow rapidly into a national pastime.

As surf bathing became popular, its dangers just as rapidly became apparent. Small groups of experienced, regular swimmers and surfers began to form themselves into lifesaving bodies to voluntarily help people who needed rescuing from an unfamiliar environment.

As these clubs grew in size and number, an Association was needed to coordinate and regulate activities and share lifesaving knowledge and the first was the New South Wales Surf Bathing Association, formed on 18 October 1907.

Its rapid growth and development, and the emergence of Surf Life Saving in all other states, lead to the modern, progressive organisation we have today - Surf Life Saving Australia.