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Blog post from Tuesday, 23 December, 2014

On this day, 23rd December 1906, the surf lifesaving reel was demonstrated for the first time at Bondi Beach.

The lifesaving reel was an Australian invention. Rescue equipment had until then consisted of a pole in the sand with a coiled rope attached. In 1906, Lyster Ormsby of the Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving Club modelled his design using a cotton reel and bobby pins. It was intended for a lifesaver wearing a belt with a rope attached to reach a distressed swimmer, and be pulled back to the beach by his fellow lifesavers.

The surf lifesaving reel was popularly used until 1993, when inflatable boats with outboard motors, came into use.

The photographs are from the State Library of New South Wales collections.