After 50 years this has to be a very brief history of Falmouth Surf Life Saving Club. Formed in the spring of 1967 following a reported drowning the previous summer, a group of enthusiastic swimmers met in the Town Hall for its inaugural meeting, to form a working group, their aim to set up a Surf Life Saving Club at Maenporth Beach. Only one of those at that meeting is still within the club being our Honorary Secretary Elaine Stephens,(then Elaine Wilkinson, a local Mawnan Smith girl).
In those very early years clubs such as Gunwalloe, Porthtowan and
Perranporth were more than happy to assist in the training of
members for the Bronze Medallion, the prerequisite for all voluntary
beach life guards at the time. You had to be resilient in those days
with no wetsuits, and only an old beach hut to take shelter in, with
just the Reel, Line and Belt (the mainstay of life saving equipment
and examination in the late sixties and seventies) and a wooden
rescue ski been donated in 1968. Mike O’brien became club
captain, and as the full time first aid officer for Falmouth Docks had
many years experience in life threatening situations. He set very
high standards and was ably assisted by Barry Morris and Roger
Lean. Sunday training started at 09.00 and continued until patrols
commenced at 10.00 finishing at 18.00.
In 1970 both Falmouth and Gunwalloe were privileged in obtaining Inshore Rescue Boats, donated by the late Mrs Elsie Holmes, who would later become club President, a great supporter and follower of club activities throughout her life. At that time the only other clubs with IRB’s were Perranporth and Atlantic College in Wales. Today the IRB is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on the beach. In the seventies it was a bog standard inflatable and outboard however the club Gear Steward Terry Wilkes and Roger Stephens designed and manufactured modifications over several years to help the craft meet the rigours of surf rescue work. It is surprising to see how their efforts so closely replicate the top spec craft designed and built in New Zealand for the world market. To think we kept the boat in the car park behind the beach and engine in the beach hut! Not only were the two experimenting with IRB design they were also using their newly acquired skills in surfing to come up with ideas for a fibre glass Rescue Board with Bilbo Surf Shop carrying out its production. Both board and ski can still be found in the club hut. They also modified an old rowing club
gig into a would be surf boat, not their best idea.
It was now becoming obvious that with four pieces of equipment and a very positive
senior patrolling membership something more than an old beach hut was needed,
however by then we did have two old beach huts that we had to remove from the
beach along with the kit at the end of each season. Two years of wrangling took
place Budock, Mawnan Smith and Falmouth Councils all having their say as to where
we could build; on the beach, on the cliff to the east and west all discussed. Cornwall
County Council finally giving permission for one on the cliff on the west side of the
beach. As it transpired the boundary line for both Mawnan Smith and Falmouth would
cut right across the middle of the site. The Fox family owned the land but fortunately
Mrs. Fox helped run a little first aid post on the other side of the beach and had
always been another keen supporter of club activities, granting us permission to
operate our life saving operation from on her land. This could not be said for
the Crag Hotel which overlooked the beach, now the site of Maenporth Estate. They also owned the centre section of the beach and took a very dim view of a life saving club presence, being of the opinion that it gave the impression Maenporth Beach was dangerous and therefore would put people off coming to the beach. Numerous disagreements ensued to the extent that they erected a fence on both sides of their section of beach. This did not hinder us in our life saving work, prevailing weather patterns giving us many days of surf in east to north east winds in the first twenty years of the clubs history with many and varied rescues been performed every summer (see press cuttings for just a few examples).