Leighton – the Thirties
The formation of a surf life saving club at Leighton Beach was characterised by a number of false starts. Unlike some other beaches, where disasters and mass rescues made the establishment of surf lifesaving clubs a necessity, Leighton was considered a relatively “safe” family beach.
In 1931 it was proposed that a surf club be formed at North Fremantle to operate on Leighton Beach. Twelve members formed the Leighton SLSC in 1932, but the economic depression forced some prominent members to search for work further afield, resulting in cessation of activities in early 1933.
State Centre attempted to restart the club for the 1933/34 season under the presidency of Gordan Dedman, but this proved unsuccessful. Then, at the start of the 1934-35 season, State Centre placed a reel on the beach and waited to see what would happen.
In January 1935, the North Fremantle Town Council requested State Centre to take action on the formation of a club at Leighton. Shortly thereafter, in February 1935, a public meeting was held and the Leighton SLSC was reformed. The Mayor of North Fremantle, A. Turton, was its Patron, the President was Gordon Dedman, Secretary F. Hunter, Treasurer T. Vickeridge, and Captain J. Butler. The Club affiliated with State Centre in March 1935.
Club members were immediately active in beach patrols and interclub competitions. In March 1935, the Club played host to a six man Rescue and Resuscitation (R & R) competition for new Bronze holders. The Leighton team won the inaugural event – team members were Alan Riou, Alec Gregg, E. Vickeridge, E. Clarke, Jimmy Brown and L. Edwards. The trophy for this event had been donated by a visiting team from NSW, hence the “NSW Trophy” became associated with competitions for first year Bronze Holders.
At the completion of this first 1934/35 season, membership was thriving, and some 26 Bronze Medallions and 2 Instructors Certificates were gained.
In the 1936-37 season, the Leighton club proved itself as one of the leading clubs on the coast by drawing with Scarborough for the coveted “State Efficiency Trophy” which was granted mainly on patrol efficiency.
Over the last two seasons of the decade, the Leighton club was the biggest club on the coast with over 100 members. And in 1939, the Leighton club won its first State Championship when J.J. Graney won the State Junior Belt Race title.
It is not clear from where the Club first operated, because it took until December 1937 to build the first clubroom. This first home was a 30 ft by 18 ft (9m by 5.5m) shed, located in the sand dunes, adjacent to a pedestrian walkway crossing the tracks at the Leighton railway yards (located opposite the street north of the Dingo Flour mill).
A converted windmill stand, 10-12 metres tall, with a canvas covered frame on the platform was used as a patrol tower.
The club rooms were extended in 1938, providing a dressing room, ambulance room, gear room and front verandah. In May 1939, a busy season was rounded off with the conversion of an old tram into an Ambulance room.
The club was inadequately equipped as far as surf boats were concerned. Initially a row boat was used at Leighton. Then, in 1939, the row boat was replaced by a surf boat purchased from the NSW club North Steyne. This surf boat remained in service until 1941. This first surf boat was named “The Swan”, but was quickly nicknamed the “Blue Death” by those unfortunate to row it. This included many of whom were trapped under it at various times when it rolled over, which it often did. The first boat crew was Alan Riou (captain), Walter Dawson, George Turner, Alec Gregg and Jimmy Brown.
The first club colours were introduced in 1935 – light blue bathers with a dark blue sash and badge at the chest; quartered light and dark blue competition cap and plain blue march-past cap. This was changed in 1938-39, with club bathers revealed as royal blue with a saxe blue stripe down each leg and a badge on the left leg. The Club’s first motif, with wings a prominent feature, was used as an adornment to club blazers and incorporated in the March Past Banner.
The Club colours as we know them today were finalised in 1939, with gold being added to the royal blue and saxe blue.
Leighton – the Forties
The forties saw the continued development of the small Leighton Club. The decade saw the historical connection to the warship HMAS Sydney II established, new Clubrooms obtained in 1946, Lochyer Cottman becoming Leighton’s first Australian Champion, and the club winning the coveted Presidents Efficiency Trophy (Patrol Efficiency).
In 1942, Gordon Dedman was honoured with Life membership of the Club. Gordon was the Foundation President of the Leighton Surf Club formed in the 1934/35 season, and held the presidency until 1948 (14 years), holding the club together through the depression and war years. The clubrooms began as a one-room shack, and Gordon began a Building Committee (1938) which provided additions for Ambulance, Gear and Dressing rooms and a front verandah. In 1946 he oversaw the purchase and erection of a new surf club building.
In the early days of the war, the HMAS SydneyII was stationed in Fremantle. Many sailors, associated with Surf lifesaving, gravitated to Leighton beach and joined in with the club’s activities, and 6 even obtained their Bronze medallions at the Leighton club. Such was the association, that during the HMAS Sydney’s campaign in the Mediterranean, these sailors built a full-size surf reel and replica reel trophy for the Club, and presented these to the Leighton club in August 1941. Shortly thereafter, in November, the HMAS Sydney was sunk, with all hands (over 600 sailors), off the northwest cape by the German raider Kormoran.
The Club instigated the replica reel trophy as the “HMAS Sydney Memorial Reel” trophy to be competed for annually for the title of Club Belt Champion (later changed to champion Tube Race champion when use of the reel, line and belt diminished). The original surf reel, and later a replacement reel, has been used as the HMAS Sydney memorial reel and used exclusively for March Past competition and displays.
The war years saw dramatic drops in membership of all surf clubs throughout the state, and Leighton was no exception. No carnivals were contested from 1941-42 season onwards, and only 2 patrols were operating. By 1943, Leighton had only 20 members (15 of which were Juniors) and the club was forced to stage voluntary patrols only. However, the women in the club began to take a more active role, and Red Cross and St John Ambulance nurses were “allowed” to carry out duties in the ambulance room.
In 1945, the Ladies Auxiliary, composed of girlfriends and wives, was
established to assist the club with raising funds for a new building. By the following year they had raised ₤300 pounds, and together with a pound for pound loan from the North Fremantle Town Council, the club was able to purchase war surplus buildings (“the Enlisted Men’s Barracks No.1” and “Recreation Room No.1”). These buildings were dismantled and reassembled on Leighton Beach to form the new clubroom some 80 ft by 40ft – there was an Ambulance room at the front, an office on the left, changerooms on the right and a recreation hall. The original clubrooms became the men’s shower room and there was a kiosk run by the Ladies Auxiliary. The new clubrooms were opened in December, 1946 by Lt Governor Sir James Mitchell.
Active membership of the club steadily increased from the 1945-46 season onwards. This was the first season the Club had returned to competition, and D. Gow started a club tradition by winning the Senior Beach Sprint Championship at the State Titles. Lochyer Cottman also excelled by winning both the Junior and Senior Belt Race Championships at the 1946 State Titles.
In 1947, Lochyer (“Lochie”) Cottman became the first Leighton competitor to win an Australian Championship by winning the Junior Surf Belt Race at Southport Beach, Queensland. He had also won both the Junior Surf Belt and Junior Surf Race at the WA State Titles that year. The Leighton club itself had a great year, winning their first ever inter-Club carnival held at Leighton Beach, and placed in the top three at all inter-club carnivals that year.
The last two years of the decade (1948 and 1949) saw the Leighton club on a high – winning the coveted Efficiency Trophy for patrol efficiency both years.
In the 1947-48 season, the “boaties” had their day. A new boat, built by Johansen of Cottesloe and could be stroked from either side, was launched and christened “Leighton”
but for various reasons, not the least of which was its colour it quickly attracted the name “Blue Death”. These early boats were all “double enders” as seen in the photos.
During the 1948 season, SLSA conducted an Australian wide Surf Girl competition to raise funds for surf lifesaving. A Miss P. Corkhill, from the Leighton club and one of three entered by our club, was chosen to represent WA at the final in Sydney in the search for Miss Pacific.
A record was established in 1949, when the club Ambulance officers treated 146 First aid cases. Apart from the Efficiency trophy, the Club were champions
in the Junior Surf Teams, Don Murrie winning the Junior Surf Race, and Ray Mudie the Junior Beach Sprint. Coupled with placings in the Junior R&R (2nd) and Junior Boat race (3rd), the Leighton club tied for the “A.D. Scott” Cup for Junior Aggregate Championship with Bunbury.
During the forties eight life members were inducted into the Leighton Club – George Butler (1940), Joseph Baker (1941), Gordon Dedman (1942), Earnest
Heath (1942), Alexander Gregg (1948), Charles Rule (1948), Alf Mellor (1948) and Walter Dawson (1948). Most had been either foundation members or had joined in the early years of the club, and made significant contributions to the establishment and growth of the fledgling Leighton club.
Leighton - the Fities
The Leighton Club started the fifties on a high, winning the coveted (Patrol) Efficiency Trophy in 1950 for the third year in a row – a great result for the small club. At the WA State Titles, D.R. (Don) Murrie won the Junior Champion Surfer (U18 Surf Race) for the second year in a row.
The following season, 1951, the Junior R&R Team was the WA State Champion and followed this with a third place at the Australian Championships. The team, coached by W. Brown, consisted of J. Cassidy, J.McDonald, Ralph Freeman, M. Raston, R. Murrie, R. Atkinson and I. Atkinson.
Five Leighton competitors, R. and I. Atkinson, J. Cassidy, Lochie Cottman and Don Murrie, were selected in the WA State Team to compete at the Jubilee Year Australian Championships held at Scarborough in March 1951 (to mark 50 years since Federation).
In 1952, the Leighton Club had its first success in the boat arena, following several years of minor placings, by winning the Junior Surf Boat Championship. The crew was J. MacDonald (sweep), B. Cook, L. Howarth, R. Gough and C. Bant. Note the lifejackets worn by the crew – these were compulsory for crews until the early seventies.
In 1952, Don Pass, one of the great characters of the Club, was honoured with Club Life Membership. Don probably did more than anyone to elevate the profile of the Leighton Surf Club in the surf movement, particularly in the boat arena. Don had been Surf Boat Captain since the 1947/48 season, going on to hold this position for 17 years until finally relinquishing it when he moved to the country in August 1964. In 1949, Don had set up a fund to purchase a new surf boat, with the ‘Leighton II’ being transported to Fremantle from Newcastle, NSW on the SS Beltana in 1951. This was the first “tucked stern” boat in WA, previously others were the standard “double headers”. Throughout the fifties, Don swept crews to championships in Junior Surf Boat (1952), Surf Boat Relay (1954), and C Grade Surf Boat (1955, 1957 and 1962). He was Club President from 1954 until 1959 and Senior Vice-President from 1959 until taking leave of absence in August 1964. Don Pass was an inaugural inductee to the Surf Boat Rowers Hall of Fame in 1996, and subsequently the SLSWA Sporting Hall of Fame.
In 1953, the Club came a credible second in the NSW Trophy for first year Bronze Holders.
In 1955, William (“Bill the Biter”) Freeman won the State Surf Ski Championship, a feat not to be repeated until his protégé Mark Regel won in 1983.
Throughout the fifties, the Club’s major source of funds were from the weekly summer dances held in the Surf Club hall and from the Surf Club Kiosk run by the Ladies Auxiliary on the weekends.
A major highlight for the Leighton Club occurred in 1956, when the Club celebrated the 21st Anniversary of the founding of the club. Quote from the 1956 Annual Report:
“This auspicious occasion was celebrated with a Smoke Social of Past members and Present Senior members. The Association was represented at this function by Mr Becher the Association President. Mr Alan Kennedy showed some excellent films on Surf which contributed largely to the success of the evening. Many old members availed themselves to see how the Club was going and to meet the present members, and they were very pleased at the progress which had been made. Our special thanks go to Reg Giles for the wonderful effort he made so as to make this Celebration one which will be remembered for many years to come”
At the 1956 State Titles, Ray Mudie finished first in the Senior Beach Sprint, but was unfortunately disqualified (reason unknown). The Leighton II surf boat was also badly damaged when competing in the final of the B Crew Race – fortunately the crew escaped with only a severe shaking.
A further highlight of 1956 was the Leighton Club’s first Eastern States touring team to the Australian Titles. That year, the Australian Championships and International Surf Carnival was held at Torquay Beach, Victoria, during the Melbourne Olympic Games. Nine members - Don Pass, Dave Blackley, Bill Summers, Bill Freeman, G. and E. Tuxworth, J. Donnan, Ralph Doepel and Reg Giles - represented the Club in the March Past, Senior Surf Boat, Single and Double Ski, Surf Board and some novelty events. It was considered that this team had started a worthy precedent, which should be followed in coming years to make Leighton known on the Australian Surfing Map.
The last half of the decade, the Club was competitive with many placings and finals appearances, but few titles. In 1957, the “C” crew won the State Championships, the Junior Boat crew came second, and Noel Williams was third in the Junior Surf Dash.
In 1958, the Aussies were again in Perth, and the Senior Beach Relay team made the finals at both the State and Australian Titles. The “A” boat crew performed exceptionally well at the Australian Titles, however a hotly disputed decision barred them from competing in the final.
In 1959, Bill “Stormy” Summers was honoured with Club Life Membership. He was Vice Captain, then Club Captain from 1952 to 54 and then 1955 to 58. He was emphatic about upholding the principles of patrol duty, of being prepared. He required all active members to swim in the weekly club swim and within the time limit he set. This pride in public service carried the Club through the times when there was no competitive success. Success did come later, when Bill coached the March Past Team to seven State Titles between 1962 and 1976. He joined the Board of Examiners in 1962, and was awarded State Life Membership in 1974.
During the last few years of the decade morale at the Club was low and there was much uncertainty over the future of the Club and Leighton beach due to the Harbour Extension Scheme. Management was reluctant to make sweeping changes with regard to extensions to the clubrooms (Office, Ambulance Room and Dressing Rooms).
In 1958-59 season, the Leighton club found itself severely squeezed by the construction of the railway marshalling yards. The club expressed a preference for being located adjacent to the Leighton railway station but this proved impractical. The WA Government Railways gave notice that the club vacate its premises by mid-year – however this was later rescinded and the Port Authority re-located the clubrooms in June 1959. What seemed to be a formidable task was apparently just another's day work for the FPA engineers. They put a hawser around the building, and dragged it down a series of skids placed along the beach. Thus, the Club moved closer to the beach to make way for the railway tracks.
At this time the clubrooms were on the beach, several hundred metres north of the present location, but the ocean road along the beach had not yet been opened. Hence the club was effectively sandwiched between the railway tracks and the sea, with no pedestrian overpass yet constructed. For the boaties, it was easier to reach the water, but to go elsewhere by road to carnivals etc, it meant dragging the boat across 14 sets of tracks!!
Membership numbers were low, to the extent there were only 23 patrolling members forming 3 patrols. This meant members were on patrol every weekend putting considerable pressure on everyone, and little time to participate in carnivals etc.
The uncertainty was summed up in the 1959 Annual Report which gave thanks to Mrs Wright and Fred Lavery MLC for their fine efforts on behalf of negotiating a fair go for our Club in connection with the development of Leighton Beach.
During the fifties four life members were inducted into the Leighton Club – Alan Wynn (1950), James Gow (1951), Don Pass (1952) and William (Bill) Summers (1959).
Port - the fifties
Early in 1958 the Leighton Club placed a reel on Ampol Beach (now Port Beach) during weekends. The Port Authority was then constructing rail marshalling yards and re-routing traffic so that Port Beach, a safer beach than Leighton, became accessible to the public for the first time.
Port SLSC was formed and granted partial affiliation with State Centre in 1958. The Club, under President C.A. (Dick) Faulds, adopted the motto “Forever Watchful” and a seagull featured in the club badge. The Club adopted the colours of royal blue, white and tangerine. Its patrol boundaries were defined as the beach area between Rous Head and Agnus Street, the latter near the land separating the two clubs. The Leighton Club patrolled north to the Cable Station.
During that first season (1958/59) the Port Club operated from a shed loaned to them by the Port Authority.
Leighton – the Sixties
The sixties heralded a new prosperous and rewarding future for the Club. With the uncertainty of the beach foreshore development resolved, new Clubrooms built, a new Juvenile section created, and the start of the “Golden Years” of the Club with the first of many of the blue riband event, the Senior R&R Championships won in 1968, the Club’s future was firmly established.
In 1962, the Club moved into a new clubhouse, built by the Fremantle Harbour Trust with a building from the wharf, and located near the current Surf Club hub. Previously, the Leighton Clubrooms were 500 metres north – more towards the middle of the bay.
The new Clubrooms saw an increase in membership, more active members for patrol and an overall stronger Club on the beach. State Champions in 1962 were the Senior Surf Boat C Crew, Ray Allen (Cadet Beach Sprint) and Bill Pettitt (State Junior Lifesaver).
We also saw the beginning of a Juvenile Surf Club for boys between 10 and 14 years in the 1961/62 season (instigated by David Blackley). Some 100 boys joined and under the guidance of John McDonald and assistance from club stalwarts David Blackley, Bill Summers, Ian (Garth) Lawrence etc the Juvenile section thrived with instruction in swimming, beach events, resuscitation, reel and line work and elementary first aid. Such was the strength of this group, that they won the only carnival between 6 clubs in their first year, and repeated the win the following year. The Juvenile section maintained numbers between 80 and 150 members throughout the decade, and in 1967, the first official Juvenile State Championships were held at Leighton beach.
The Ladies competition section was formed in 1962-63, enjoying almost instant success. Members, Lyn McClements (later McKenzie) and Lyn Watson (later Bates), went on to represent Australia at Olympic and Empire (ie Commonwealth) Games. Lyn McClements won the 100m Butterfly at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and Lyn Watson won 4 gold medals (100 and 200m backstroke, and 4x100m Medley and Freestyle Relays) at the Edinburgh Commonwealth games in 1970, and both won a silver medal in the 4x100m Medley Relay at the Mexico Olympics. On the home front, Lyn Watson was the State Champion in the Surf Race and Surf Teams in the Surf Lifesaving Ladies Competition in 1969.
In 1963, the Club had its best performance at the State Championships in almost a decade. The Junior boat crew swept by Peter Thornett (crew Colin Moysey, Ralph Hoger, David Leaman and Kevin Nettleton) were the State Champions after going through the season undefeated. George Booth was the Beach Flags Champion (then the Musical Flags event) – our first Beach Flags champion. The March Past, coached by David Blackley and Bill Summers, won their first State Title, and the Cadet R&R won their first ever title (and were to win again the following 2 years in 1964 and 1965).
The Leighton Club has always been innovative in Surf Lifesaving, and in 1963 an American made foam rubber torpedo lifeguard (tube) was obtained and successfully tested by Club member Ralph Buffham. This occurred over a decade before the Rescue Tube was officially sanctioned by Surf Lifesaving Australia.
In 1965, the Club won the coveted NSW trophy – 30 years since the Club won the inaugural trophy in 1935. After a perfect draw (Ian Mansfield (patient) and Michael Cook (beltman) – two of the top swimmers along the coast drawing the swim sections of the R&R) the team blitzed the field. Other members of the team were Larry Tilbury (1st linesman), Ian Hempsall (reelman), Ian Turner (2nd linesman) and Ray Carter (3rd linesman) and coach Cliff Bridle. At the State Titles our beach sprinters won the Junior Beach Relay.
The Aussies were held in WA in 1965, and the Club made a bold decision to purchase a near new boat from Dee Why following the titles for 550 pounds– a purchase that put the Clubs finances into the red! However, this was a major boost for the surf boat arena, and the following year, in 1966, the Club won the Junior Surf Boat Championship. Crew members were Bill Freeman (sweep), Ian Turner, Alan Meheux, Larry Tilbury and Colin Duffield. The boat arena continue to thrive, and were highly competitive throughout the remainder of the decade.
The latter part of the decade saw the start of the “Golden Years” for the Leighton Club. In 1968 the Club won the blue ribbon event, the Senior R&R (and hence Champion Club) – the first time ever. The R&R team was Cliff Bridle, Ian Mansfield, Kevin Holtom, Michael Cook, Alex McKenzie and Allan Edwards. The R&R team won the State Title again in 1969, and also won a silver medal at the Aussies in Tasmania, being just pipped for first place. These two wins were the start of a great run for the R&R team, and they won a further 5 titles in the 70’s.
The Leighton Swim Team was dominant over these years. Michael Cook won the Open Surf Race in 1967 and 1969, Ian Mansfield won the Junior Belt Race in 1967, and they both combined with Alex McKenzie and Allan Edwards to win the Open Surf Teams in 1968. Garry McKeon also won the Junior Surf Race in 1968. The Leighton Open Surf Team came third at the Aussies in 1969. Over this time, many of the swim team were members of the WA State Team, including Michael Cook (1965, 66, 67, 68 & 69), Ian Mansfield (1967, 68, 69), Alex McKenzie (1967, 68) and Jeremy Allan (1969).
The last year of the decade 1969, was the most successful competition year in the history of the Club since 1935. Apart from the R&R and Open Surf Race wins, the March Past team, coached by David Blackley, won the State Championships. Such was Leighton’s overall competitive strength, they were only 1 point short of winning the Senior aggregate points trophy.
During the sixties, three life members were inducted into the Leighton Club – Ivan Anderton (1961), David Blackley (1963) and William (Bill) Freeman (1963)
Throughout the club history, we have been innovative. In the 1971-72 season the club first tested and used the first IRB on patrols. Leighton was also the first Australian Surf Lifesaving club to have a Licensed Bar (1973) as a means to raising funds.
In 1976 the Leighton and Port Clubs amalgamated to form the Fremantle Surf Lifesaving Club, with the responsibility for patrolling 4 km of coastline, the longest in Western Australia. The club rooms, based at Leighton Beach, were built in stages, with the main hall and kitchen/office facilities completed in 1977.
The long coastline was patrolled in 1977-78 by a mobile (“roving”) system, with 2-way radios and more recently, the use of a 4-wheel drive vehicle has increased the effectiveness of patrols.
For a club with a small membership, we have been very successful in both State and Australian competition. Members have been particularly strong in beach and surf boat events, starting with the win in Australian Beach Flag in 1976.
Fremantle – the Eighties
Our first full decade as the Fremantle SLSC was very successful, including championship performances from our swimmers and our surf ski team, our first Female State Championship and almost total dominance of the WA Beach Arena by our Australian Champion Beach Team. We also saw the completion of the Port Beach Annexe and the start of major sponsorships for the Club.
We started the 1980s with a portent of things to come by winning the NSW Trophy for first year Bronze Holders for only the third time in our history. Coached by Brian Troy, the team of Kelvin Graham, Bradley Cowan, Francis Nolan and Shane Adams blitzed the field to win in all but one event of the multi-event competition.
A friend to all, Kelvin Graham went on to become one of Australian’s premier surf ski and kayak paddlers of the 1980s. He won the WA Junior (U18) Surf Ski Championship in 1980, 1981 and 1982. In addition to winning the 1982 WA Junior Ski, he finished 3rd in the WA Open Surf Ski, just behind the legendary Ken Vidler and Fremantle clubmate Ian Head. Kelvin was selected for the WA State Team in 1982, 1983 and 1984, winning the 1983 Interstate Ski Race at Clifton Beach Tasmania as a first-year senior. After transferring to Queensland in 1985 in a bid for Olympic selection, Kelvin won the Australian Open Single Ski Championship at Moana, SA in 1986.
He represented Australia at the Seoul (1988) and Barcelona (1992) Olympics, winning Bronze medals in K2 and K4. Incredibly, the Barcelona K4 crew also included former Fremantle ski paddler Ramon Andersson. Kelvin and Ramon are two of currently only 10 paddlers inducted into the Paddle WA Hall of Fame.
The ever-smiling Brad Cowan became one of our champion competitors and lifesaving leaders through the 1980s and a mainstay of our surf ski team. Brad was the Junior (U18) Champion Lifesaver of WA in 1982. With best friend Kelvin Graham, Brad won the 1981 Junior (U18) Double Ski and with brother Andrew, was a very close second in the 1988 Open Double Ski. In 1986, he was selected in the WA State Team as the No 1 ski paddler. Andrew himself had became Fremantle’s first full-time lifeguard in 1984 and won the WA Open Board Riding Championships in 1986 and 1987.
Francis Nolan also went on to win a State Championship for Fremantle, teaming with brothers Garry and Mark and Peter Schaper to win the 1980 Junior (U18) Beach Relay.
Under SLSA rules, women were not allowed to become full lifesavers and qualify for the Bronze Medallion until after July 1980. The first female Bronze Holders qualified at Fremantle were Carolyn Bailey and Debbie Bennett in October 1980 and were trained by Brian Troy. By the end of the 1980/81 season 24 women had qualified for their Bronze Medallion at Fremantle.
Our first women’s championship came in 1984 when Carol Pickard took out the Open Female Surf Race. Our women continued to achieve placings in the State Championships throughout the decade, including a silver medal in the 1988 Women’s Open Beach Relay through Natalie Leavy, Naomi Pavlovich, Tracey Irving and Joanne Grose. Jodee Walton also recorded impressive performances running for Fremantle in 1988, with a 4th place at the Australian Championships and a World Championships Silver Medal in the Open Female Beach Sprint.
Club President John McCourt was both WA and Australian Surf Lifesaver of the Year in 1983, earned for his work as an active lifesaver and administrator. His contribution in bringing the work of lifesavers before the general public was outstanding and he took full advantage of the unique opportunity of his profession as a journalist to obtain widespread media exposure for surf lifesaving.
1983 was also the highlight year for our surf ski team, though tinged with sadness. In that year, we won every category of the single ski at the WA State Championships. Sean Nolan won the Cadet (U15) Ski in addition to the Cadet (U15) Malibu Board.
Brett Jasson won the Junior (U18) Single Ski, the 4th consecutive year for a Fremantle paddler. And Mark Regel won the Open Single Ski, in the process completing a unique triple by having also won the 1976 Cadet (U15) Single Ski and the Junior (U18) Single Ski in 1978 & 1979. The sadness for the Club followed the sudden loss of Ian Head, who had suffered a brain hemorrhage on his 22nd birthday and died in December 1982. Ian had been a rising star of paddling, being the 1982 WA Open Surf Ski Silver medalist and an Australian Kayak Champion at the time of his death.
The 1980s saw Fremantle well represented in WA State Teams, including Rob Pickard as State Captain in 1984 and Coach in 1985. In 1982, Rob Pickard, Brian Troy and Kelvin Graham were key members of the winning interstate R&R Team, while in 1983, Mark Nolan, Brian Troy, Philip Hopkins and Andrew Hopkins (Scarboro) blitzed the Interstate Beach Relay.
Other WA representatives were Richard Hickson (Vice Captain 1987), Mark Peters, Adam Mills and Brad Cowan. John McCourt managed the WA State Team in 1984 while Ron Bennett managed the Australian Team against New Zealand in 1980.
We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 1985 (50 years since the formation of the Leighton club in 1935). As part of our celebrations, we hosted the innovative 50th Anniversary Carnival, the Westpac State Titles on Leighton Beach, and a major 50th Anniversary Dinner at the Port Authority Terminal.
The Club saw the start of major sponsorships in 1985/86, with “Fosters” providing an almost $100K package which included a fully equipped Toyota Land Cruiser 4WD rescue unit, a fully equipped IRB and numerous additional items.
A significant contribution to lifesaving in the Fremantle area was the building of the Port Beach Annexe in 1986 – a ‘mini’ lifesaving facility at Port Beach.
The Annexe included a First Aid room/office, storeroom and an all-weather lookout tower. Funding was provided by the America’s Cup Office - a significant grant which started the ball rolling, Surf Lifesaving WA, and our own Club members.
Some excellent performances were produced by our swimmers in the 1980s. Paul Pedretti was the Australian Surf Race Champion (10 years old) in 1982 and later won the WA Cadet (U15) Ironman Championship in 1985. Paul captained the WA Juvenile State Team in 1985. The towering Bruce Mentz won WA gold in the Cadet (U15) Surf Belt in 1982 and the Junior (U18) Surf Belt in 1984. And in 1986, Dave Wheatley recorded a shock but none-the-less well-deserved win in the WA Open Surf Belt, our first since Club legend Lochyer Cottman in 1946.
1986 also saw our A Crew of Rob Turner, Dean Symmans, Paul Andrews and Kim Hall record outstanding performances to make the final of the Open Surf Boat at the Australian Championships at Moana Beach, SA. The achievement was a credit to Surf Boat Captain and sweep Steve “Pom” Connor, who pursued surf boat success with a passion for most of the decade, laying the foundation for some great achievements into the 1990s.
The 1980s saw our Beach team start a dominance that resulted in Championships won in every year of the decade and into the next. Under the guidance first of Rob Pickard, then Brian Troy and finally Mark Nolan, the Beach Team recorded multiple successes in all age categories in Beach Sprints, Beach Flags and Beach Relays.
Mark Nolan opened the account, winning the WA Junior (U18) Beach Sprint in 1980 while Mark Jacques won the Cadet (U15) Beach Flags. The Marks repeated their success in 1981, with Mark Jacques winning the Beach Sprint and Beach Flags for Cadets (U15) while Mark Nolan won the double in the Junior (U18). Rob Pickard made it a Beach Flags triple by winning the 1981 WA Open title. Mark Nolan also placed third in the Junior (U18) Beach Sprint at the 1981 Australian Championships at Wanda NSW.
It was from 1982 that the Fremantle dominance of the beach really took off. In the Beach Flags, Robert Pickard won again for 4 consecutive Open Beach Flags from 1981 to 1984, with Richard Hickson (1986) and Adam Mills (1988) adding further titles. Adam also won the Australian silver medal in the Open Beach Flags in 1989 at Burleigh Heads, Qld.
In the Open Beach Relay, we won our first WA title of the decade in 1982 and, after a dropped baton in 1983, won every WA Open Beach Relay Title through to 1992. In 1987, we achieved the ultimate prize of the Australian Open Beach Relay Championship through Mark Nolan, Richard Hickson, Rod Pavlovich and Mark Peters.
As well as the Open titles, we were also strong in Cadet (U15) and Junior (U18) events. Mark Nolan (1980 & 81), Rod Pavlovich (1985) and Mark Peters (1986) all won WA Junior (U18) Beach Sprints. We won the Junior (U18) Beach Relay in 1980, 84 & 85 and the Cadet (U15) Beach Relay in 1986.
In 1983, Philip Hopkins won the first of 10 straight WA Open Beach Sprint Championships for the Fremantle Club. Subsequent winners in the 1980s were Mark Nolan (1984, 85, 88 & 89) and Richard Hickson (1986 & 87). Richard also won Australian Bronze Medals in the Open Beach Sprint in 1985 and 1987. And in 1987, we even had an Australian Masters Beach Sprint and Beach Flags Champion in the O55 category through Roy Becker.
1987 also saw our fantastic March Past team win our first WA March Past Title in over a decade. Reflecting the new mix of Club membership, the six men and six women had trained tirelessly over several years before achieving the win under the guidance of veteran coach Dave Blackley.
Finally, Graham Walton, Ron Cochrane and Roy Becker were made Club Life Members during the 1980s. All three contributed greatly to the Club and it is especially fitting that Roy’s 1989 award closes out the decade, as he had influenced and inspired so many of the names on this page as Juvenile Director in the 1970s and Chief Instructor in the 1980s. Greatness starts somewhere.
Fremantle – the Nineties
The nineties saw continuing success for the Club, including an Australian U/18 Beach Relay Championship as well as our first ever WA Championships in the Open Surf Boat and Open First Aid Competition. We also saw the completion of new Active Clubrooms in 1995.
The 90s started with our Beach team continuing the dominance it had shown through the 1980s. In 1990, Jeff Davidson was named the SLSWA Sports Star of the Year after winning what was the first of his seven WA Open Men’s Beach Sprint Championships. Jeff repeated the Beach Sprint win in 1991 before Mark Peters took the title in 1992 - the 10th consecutive year a Fremantle Beach Sprinter had taken out the WA Open Beach Sprint Title. Mark won again in 1994 to make it 11 Fremantle Open Beach Sprint wins in 12 years. In the Open Beach Relay, Fremantle won the WA Championships and Australian Bronze Medals in 1990 and 1991, before winning the WA Championship again in 1992.
An era ended with the 1992 win, with the Open Beach Relay team having won the WA Championship 10 times in 11 years and nine years in a row to 1992, the Australian Championship in 1987 and World Runners-up in 1988. In 2017, the team was inducted into the SLSWA Sporting Hall of Fame in recognition of its achievements.
An undoubted highlight of the 1990s came in the surf boat arena. After many years of placings, finally, in 1991, we won the WA Open Surf Boat championship – the first ever after 57 years of competition. The Open Surf boat crew was Nick and Bill Palmer, Ross Onions, Dean Symmans and sweep Colin Duffield. The win had some added poignancy for the Club, with our former Surf Boat Captain Steve (Pom) Connor celebrating the victory before succumbing to cancer just 6 weeks later. RIP Pom.
Fremantle has always been strong in Lifesaving, training and qualifying many surf lifesavers. In 1990, the Fremantle Open First Aid team (Brent Ravlich, Lee Gilmore and coach Roy Sojan) were the WA Open First Aid Champions – the first time since the First Aid Championships were introduced in the 80’s. Another highlight came in 1998, when Club members qualified as professional lifeguards, with Matt Thurston and Craig Tolliday selected to patrol Yallingup beach during the school holidays.
Female membership of our club continued to grow through the 90s with women taking on more roles. Donna Peters became Treasurer in 1990 and in 1991, Sue Collins became our first female member elected Club Captain.
We celebrated our 60th anniversary in style in 1994/95. The new Active Clubrooms were completed and opened in March 1995, and included new changerooms, First Aid room, large Training room and Gymnasium, and an impressive (and huge) equipment/boat shed. Funding for the $650K building project was provided through grants from Lotteries Commission of WA, the Shell Company of Australia, the Federal Government, the Fremantle City Council, the Fremantle Port Authority and significant financing from the Fremantle Club itself. To top off the celerations, we won the Haywood Efficiency Trophy for the best run club on the coast – another first for the Club as it was the first time in 21 years of the trophy.
In 1995, a new group of talented young Fremantle runners came to the fore to dominate the U16 and U18 beach events. Built around Luke Pember, Joel Moore and Travis Sheehy and with coaching from Club greats Richard Hickson and Mark Nolan, we won six state titles from 1995 to 1997.
In 1997, our team of Luke, Joel, Travis and Scott Cumming blitzed the competition to win both the Australian and State Titles in the U/18 Beach Relay. Luke was also outstanding at the State Titles picking up 4 Gold medals in the U/16 Sprint, U/16 Flags and U/16 Relay, plus the U/18 Relay.
In the water arena, Lisa Anderson won a swag of State medals, including Gold medals in the U/16 Female Surf Race in 1994 and the U/18 Female Surf Race in 1996.
In 1995, the emergence of women boat rowers received great interest in the media and with sponsors, with Fremantle well in the forefront with two women's crews competing all season. Our senior women's crew of Tamsin Walton, Rachelle Doyle, Sharon Bowyer, Tracey Bowyer and sweep Nick Palmer won our first female boat medal (a bronze) at the State Titles.
Champion sprinter Mark Peters continued to compete through the 90s and regularly placed in the WA Open Beach Sprint. In 1999, he won an Australian Masters Gold Medal in the 30-34 Beach Sprint.
At the other end of the spectrum, our Junior Activities (“Nippers”) put in a great team performance to win the handicap shield – the first time Fremantle had won the shield since its inception in 1985.
Finally, with WA Championship wins in the U/18 and U/21 Surf Boats in 1999, our Boat Crews foreshadowed strong performances to come as we looked forward to the new Millennium.
Fremantle – the 2000’s
The 2000’s presented a tale of three parts – the early part saw Fremantle’s Surf Boat crews being the powerhouse of competition in the Club. By mid-decade the beach arena again came to dominate with impressive results at the State Championships, and our next Australian Gold medal – in the U/17 Male Beach Relay in 2007. By the end of the decade our IRB team came to the fore, winning their first Gold medal at the 2007 State Championships and then, in 2008, the ultimate prize of Champion IRB Club. During this decade the Club also saw a Club Life Member inducted into the SLSWA Sporting Hall of Fame and another honoured with Life Membership of Surf Lifesaving WA.
At the start of the decade, Fremantle dominated in U21 and U18/U19 Surf Boats. We followed up our 1999 wins in U21 & U18 with the U18 title in 2000, the U19 and U21 titles in 2001 and the U21 title in 2002. In 2004, our Open Surf Boat crew of Justin Rose, James Tilbury, Dan Hamilton, Michael Cameron and Steve Petrie (sweep) were selected to represent WA at the interstate challenge in Southport, South Australia.
In 2005, Life Member Mark Nolan was inducted into the SLSWA Sporting Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievements as a competitor and coach in the beach arena. Mark won 4 WA Open Beach Sprint Titles in the 1980s, was a member and coach of the 1987 Australian Open Beach Relay Champions and was a nine-times member of the Open Beach Relay team which won 10 WA titles over 11 years. Fellow Beach Sprinter Jeff Davidson (Fremantle/Mullaloo) had also been inducted the previous year for his outstanding achievements as a beach competitor and coach.
Under the coaching of Mark Nolan, the U/17 Male Beach Relay (Alexander Obiri-Boateng, Matthew Lee, Daniel Chambers and Tom Nolan) won the 2006 Australian Championships at Kurrawa, Qld. Alex also won silver in the Australian U/17 Beach Sprint and Tom a silver in the U/17 Beach Flags. This followed an impressive showing at the State Titles where the beach team won five gold medals. The U/17 relay team won both the Open and U/17 beach relays, Alex Obiri-Boateng won both the Open and U/17 Male Beach Sprint, and Tom Nolan won the U/17 Male Beach Flags – a fantastic achievement by the beach team.
Proving that the goal of surf sports competition is to produce outstanding lifesavers, Alex Obiri-Boateng showed his lifesaving skills later that year during schoolies week at Rottnest where he saved his friend’s life after he collapsed with a rare, undetected heart condition – Alex was on the front page of the West Australian newspaper and received a Certificate of Merit from SLSWA for his actions.
In 2007, the beach team continued its winning ways with Tom Nolan winning both the Open and U/19 Male Beach Sprint, and the U/19 Male Beach Relay again winning the State Title. Sam Bourke replaced Alex who had a serious hamstring injury.
On 28 May 2008, Club Life Member Larry Tilbury received one of the most prestigious honours in surf by being inducted as a Life Member of Surf Lifesaving WA. Larry’s contribution to surf lifesaving in WA, including the Leighton/Fremantle SLSC, has been outstanding over more than 40 years, covering all facets of surf lifesaving activity. Dot Shearer (Port/Fremantle/North Cottesloe) and Tony Snelling (Port/Fremantle/Bunbury) were also honoured during the decade.
2009 was a year for outstanding performances in the water arena. Natasha Kayser and Danielle Lankester won the U/17 Female Board Rescue and teamed with Lauren Lankester and Laura Halden to win the U/17 Female Surf Teams. Lauren Lankester also won the U/15 Female 2km Beach Run.
Some interesting parent/child performances were observed during the decade. At age 16, Shane Troy was a member of the 2001 State Champion U/21 Boat Crew. At age 17, Eric Troy had stroked the 1973 State Champion Reserve Grade Boat Crew, while also stroking the club’s Junior (U/18) crew at the same carnival.
In being selected as part of the 2004 State Boat Crew, James Tilbury emulated his father Larry, who was part of the Leighton Crew selected as the 1970 State Team Boat Crew.
And in winning the first of his 6 straight WA Open Beach Sprint Championships in 2007, Tom Nolan followed in the footsteps of his father Mark, who had won the first of his 4 WA Open Beach Sprint Titles in 1984.
Lifesaving methods and equipment have changed over the years. Our Club was the first in WA and one of the first in Australia to trial inflatable rescue boats in the early 1970s. IRBs developed to become a mainstay of SLSA search and rescue capability and over time a competition developed to help IRB crews hone their lifesaving skills.
The Fremantle IRB team, who had been slowly building and gaining experience through the decade, took out our first gold medal in 2007 in the IRB Female Rescue with members Anne-Marie Nunes (driver), Sophie Maguire and Paige Bavich.
The following season, in June 2008, Fremantle won the IRB Champion Club for the first time ever. Our IRB team blitzed the field, winning 5 gold medals and placing in another 4 events. This Champion Club win was to herald the start of an impressive run as we moved into the 2010s, with the Club winning the IRB Champion Club 6 times in the next 7 years.
Fremantle – the 2010’s
The 2010’s saw continuing success for the Club in the IRB arena, including our first medal at the National IRB Championships, impressive results in the Pool Rescue arena culminating with gold medals at the Australian Pool Rescue Championships and winning the inaugural Pool Rescue Champion Club in 2019, success at the SLSWA Awards of Excellence, and a thriving Junior “Nippers” section. We saw the completion of a new purpose-built Clubrooms in 2011. We also saw our Open Beach Relay team members (2017) and Rob Pickard (2018) inducted into the SLSWA Sporting Hall of Fame for their successes in the 80’s and 90’s.
The IRB racing team was outstanding throughout the decade. They continued their success, winning the Champion IRB Club in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016, and runners up in 2013 and 2017.
That is the Fremantle Club won a total of 8 Champion IRB Club trophies in 9 years - a magnificent effort. Over this time, the team won 36 State IRB Championship Gold medals and numerous other placings.
In the 2014/15 season, after winning the WA State Championship in the IRB Male Teams Rescue, the Pinkel’s team won Fremantle’s first IRB Australian medal (bronze) at the National IRB Championships in the IRB Male Teams Race. The Pinkel’s team was Ben Pink, Matthew Frankel, Chris Pink, Elisabeth Pitts, Nathan Frankel and Anne-Marie Nunes.
Our new Clubhouse was opened on 19 May 2011 by the Hon Premier Colin Barnett and Club President Mick Burke. The new clubrooms include change rooms, First Aid Room, gymnasium, members bar and also provide extensive room for training, administration and storage.
It also incorporates a lookout tower accessed from within the building. Funding was provided by Lotterywest, Community Sport and Recreation, the WA Planning Commission, and the Fremantle Club members.
And to top off the celebrations of the new Club, we won the Haywood Efficiency Trophy for the best run club on the coast – the second year in a row !
In 2011, Theo Haywood OAM, one of the foundation members of the Leighton Club, was inducted into the Surf Life Saving Australia Hall of Fame. Theo was Leighton’s first treasurer in 1936, and became Secretary of Surf Lifesaving WA in 1940 – a position he held until the early 60’s. He was awarded Life Membership of SLSWA in 1952.
The Fremantle Club has always been strong on Lifesaving, and has participated in the Lifesaving Championships (Champion Patrol, Champion Lifesaver and First Aid) over many years taking out many places over this time. However, in 2012 we took out the ultimate prize – a Gold medal in the Open Champion Patrol.
The Open Champion Patrol members were Sam Bilton, Lex Kuster, Paul Prisley, Callum Wilkinson, Chris Kuster and Belinda Kuster. In the U17 Champion Patrol Fremantle won gold in 2010 (Sam Bilton, Lex Kuster, Dani and Lauren Lankester), 2011 (Lauren Lankester, Olivia Morris, Alexandra Preston and Callum Wilkinson) and 2012 (Perri-Rose Jackson, Olivia Morris, Alex Preston and Sophie Preston). In addition, in the Champion Lifesaver competition, we won U17 Female (Dani Lankester) and U17 Male (Lex Kuster) in 2010, and the U19 Female (Lauren Lankester)in 2012.
Although the ski arena has seen numerous minor placings over the decade, it has only won two notable titles. In 2013, our team of Jordan Ringrose, Mark Housham and Brendan Peters took out the U17 Ski Relay Championship, and in 2016 Maddie Shaw was the U19 Female Single Ski Champion.
In the water arena, in 2013, we had success in the U17 Male Tube Race (Brendan Peters) and the U15 Male Surf Teams (Kieran Peters, Jack Smith, Jacob Hooper and Gerard Standing).
In 2014, at the Australian Masters Championships at Scarborough, our ladies team of Sue Collins, Tracey Shaw and Pip Hawson won the Masters Female Surf Teams (150 yrs). Sue and Pip then combined to win the Masters Female Board Rescue (50-54 yrs). In 2017, Tracey Shaw and Fiona Carroll wont the Female Board Rescue (40-44yrs)t the Australian Masters Championships at North Kirra, QLD
During this decade, the beach team excelled in the long distance running events. In the Female 2km Beach Run, we won in 2010 (U17 Lauren Lankester), 2012 (U15 Annabelle Standing), 2017 (U17 Abbey Henderson) and 2018 (U14 Amelie Prinsloo).
At the Australian Championships, in 2012, Annabelle Standing gained a Silver medal and Sam Bilton U19 a Bronze medal, and in 2018, Amelie Prinsloo gained a Bronze medal. In the Male 2km Beach Run, we won in 2012 (U17 Charlie Nicholls), 2016 and 2017 (U14 and U15 Zachariah Coleman).
In 2017, the Fremantle “Nippers” won the Junior States Handicap Shield – the first time for many years and the first this decade.
In 2018, Rob Pickard was inducted into the SLSWA Sporting Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievements as a competitor and coach in the beach arena. Rob won three Australian and six WA Open Mens Beach Flags Championships during the 1970’s and 80’s.
In 2013, Fremantle began competing in the Pool Rescue Championships and won three Gold medals. Participation and results increased over the years such that we had large numbers competing and by 2017 were winning over 20 Gold medals each season across both the Senior and Junior Pool Rescue Championships. In 2017, at the Australian Pool Rescue Championships in Adelaide, Tupou (“TJ”) Chong Sue (3 Gold) and Harrison Hynes (2 Gold) won our first Australian Pool Rescue Gold medals.
At the next Australian Championships in 2018, further Australian gold medals were won by Tupou (6 Gold), Harrison (1 Gold) and Tracey Shaw (2 Gold). In the 2018/19 season, SLSWA split the overall Championship points on offer and made Pool Rescue a stand-alone State Championship Event.
Such was our depth and over strength in Pool Rescue, the Fremantle team was the 2019 winner of the inaugural State Pool Rescue Championship Champion Club trophy.
Again on the Lifesaving front, Fremantle excelled and won many awards at the annual “Awards of Excellence” over the decade. Most notable, were the winning of the coveted Patrol Club of the Year (I.T. Birtwistle) trophy in 2016 and 2019, and the Haywood Administration Shield in 2010, 2011 and 2015.
Several Club members were honoured over this time - Belinda Kuster (2011 Trainer of the Year), Ethan Stewart (2016 Support Volunteer of the Year), Liam Burke (2018 Lifesaver of the Year), John Summers (2019 Assessor of the Year) and Mike Shaw (2019 AGL Volunteer and Trainer of the Year)
During the decade, the Fremantle Club inducted five new Life Members – Mark Regel (2012), Mark Peters and Susan Collins (2014), John Summers (2015) and Rachelle Doyle (2017.