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Yamba Surf Life Saving reel

Date: 1931-1932
Overall: 820 x 649 x 1485 mm
Medium: Metal, nylon, paint, wood, canvas
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Yamba Surf Life Saving Club
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Reel
Object No: 00006151
Place Manufactured:Yamba

User Terms

    This surf lifesaving reel with line and belt was originally owned by the Royal Australian Air Force before it was sold to the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club in 1947.
    SignificanceThis surf lifesaving reel is an early example of the technology that was available during the first half of the twentieth century and changed dramatically after the 1950s.
    HistoryThis surf lifesaving reel was acquired by the Royal Australian Air Force and used by troops during World War II, possibly in North Africa or South East Asia. It was purchased from the RAAF in 1947 by Yamba Surf Life Saving Club and then became their number 2 carnival reel in the 1950s. It was subsequently used by Yamba Surf Life Saving Club as a rescue and training reel and finally to teach surf rescue techniques to a local high school. It has been fitted with a reproduction Ross style safety belt and line of the type that would have been used in the 1940-50s.

    The surf reel was invented by John Bond, Lyster Orsmby and Percy Flynn of the Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club and called an Alarm reel. It was made Olding and Parker Coach Builders in Paddington, NSW, and was first used on Bondi beach on 23 March 1907. It allowed a swimmer to reach a swimmer in distress and then lifesavers on the beach pulled them back through the surf to safety.

    In 1911 the Royal Life Saving Society adopted the surf reel for use by beach clubs. The design of surf reels remained consistent as Surf Lifesaving Association handbook specified dimensions. After the 1950s timber components were replaced with metal to make the reel lighter and durable. Line specifications changed with developments in rope technology. Original hemp lines which quickly rotted were replaced by cotton, waxed cotton, cotton and nylon, nylon and finally modern Terylene lines. The surf reel, line and belt equipment was regarded as too heavy for women to use in surf rescue and they were prohibited from officially joining surf patrols until 1980.

    In 1980 inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) replaced the traditional surfboats for patrol work and the reel, line and belt was gradually phased out and vanished from beaches by 1994. Reels are still carried as part of the ceremonial march past of surf lifesaving club teams at the start of surf carnivals and in surf reel contests.

    'Beltmen' originally wore cork belts but the cork's buoyancy became a hindrance when swimming through braking surf. The amount of cork was gradually reduced and by the late 1930s four corks remained on the front and two in the back. By 1945 cork belts were replaced by flat canvas belt for rescue and competition. The major problems with belts were how to quickly release and remove it under water if a line was snagged. D ring fastenings at the back of the belts were difficult to release and resulted in drowning. In 1924 a Steve Dowling, a Manly surf lifesaver designed a split pin mechanism it release the D-rings. A modified version of the Dowling belt was designed by New Zealand Surf Life Saving superintendent Alex Ross. It consisted of two a canvas belt in two parts secured by a long skewer-like pin that passed through four brass posts. After further drowning the Ross belt became mandatory for all surf lifesaving clubs. In an emergency even this improved design proved difficult to release and a new mechanism in the form of a hinged latch secured by a ripple pin was adopted. In 1959 a new design incorporating a japara silk belt with an angled three-post release pin was developed in Queensland by Earle Smith. This lightweight style of belt was soon adopted by competitive belt swimmers. Canvas replaced the silk and remained in use until 1980 when the surf reel was withdrawn from patrol work. A final change was replacing silk with a more lightweight nylon fabric which is still in use today in competitions.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Yamba Surf Lebensdauer Spule

    Primary title: Yamba Surf Life Saving reel

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