Surfboat racing is one of the most spectacular events in Surf Life Saving competitions. Each surfboat is crewed by four rowers and steered by a sweep. Crews compete head to head, rowing from the beach through the surf into open water where they turn a set of buoys and race back to the beach. As the surfboat nears the shore the aim is to catch a wave whilst the sweep steers the boat to keep it upright and on the face of the wave. The sport is not for the faint hearted and attracts the bravest and most fearless of lifesavers.

The surfboat was designed to enter the ocean from the beach in heavy surf or severe waves. Originally they were used in lifesaving or rescue missions where the most expedient access to victims was directly from the beach. Although the surfboat is no longer used as a lifesaving craft, thousands of lifesavers across Australia uphold the tradition and compete at surfboat events each year.

We are keen to encourage younger members to join the Boat Section, if you are interested or know someone who is please contact us. In order to compete each athlete must have the minimum qualification of a Bronze Medallion and meet the patrol hour requirements according to their membership category.

For more information on surf boat rowing in Australia you can visit the Australian Surf Rowers League website.



Manly Lifesaving Club has a long and proud history in the sport of surfboat rowing and surf lifesaving in Australia. Manly Surf Club held the first ever surfboat race during the Manly Surf Carnival in 1908, using boats borrowed from ships in the harbour. The Sly family from Fairy Bower were the first unofficial lifesavers for the hordes of bathers that began flocking to Manly beach at the start of the 1900s. Using a double ended ship’s boat they cut off part of the stern and sat out beyond the break performing rescues and patrol work for the Club.

Fred Notting, the Boat Captain of the newly formed Manly Life Saving Club, adapted this boat to the local conditions. The Manly LSC surfboat was twenty feet long, double ended and had an exaggerated spring in the keel. The surfboat also had a quarter-bar to enable Notting to gain leverage to keep the boat straight on a wave.


Surfboat carnivals are conducted on a weekly basis throughout the Australian summer and hundreds of boat crews take part. The competitions offer members the chance to test their skills and fitness against the very best lifesavers in Australia and provide the opportunity to travel across the State and Country.

The competition season starts in November with local, branch carnivals. Manly is part of the Sydney Northern Beaches Branch. The Branch Championships are held in February, the State Championships in March and the season culminates in April with the National Championships. In addition, there are numerous other surfboat events to participate in throughout the season.

The competition categories are set out below:

Youth Male Female Masters
Under 19 Open Men Open Women Men
Reserve Grade Under 23 Women Women
Under 23 Men


Training schedules are specific to each crew and are usually set by the sweep and consist of 3-4 water sessions per week plus gym work.


Manly LSC is lucky to have competent and skilled sweeps who are experienced in coaching rowers and holding waves.


Manly LSC has won two Gold medals in the Open Men’s Division of the National Championships, one in 1927-28 and the other 1948-49. More recently the Open Women’s crew won a Silver medal at the Australian Championships in 2010-11 (click here to watch the race) and a Bronze medal in 2014-15.

All boat rowers would be happy to talk to current or prospective members about the great sport of surfboat rowing. Newcomers are always welcome. For information on surfboat crews contact the administration office on 9977 2742 or e-mail

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Manly Malarki Vs South Curl Curl Open Women Drone footage 2015


1995 open men surfboat semi

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