Caves Beach Lifesavers March Past in Style
In the summer heat of 28 December 1929, one of the founding members of the newly established Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club stepped into his stretchy woollen swimming costume. It was heavy, especially when wet, and slightly irritating against his skin, but he probably felt proud wearing it. That day, hundreds of spectators gathered on the rocks for the first ever surf carnival at Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie.
The march past teams of various clubs assembled on the sand, their colourful pennants fluttered in the breeze. As the Boolaroo Band played, the Caves Beach team marched in formation, leading the parade. Then 300 competitors took to the waves to compete. Since 1920, every surf lifesaving club had such a team, consisting of 20 men (which changed to 12 in 1952) that competed to win the march past title at NSW surf carnivals.
In 1930 the Caves Beach club had sufficient funds to buy a full set of march past costumes. The club won the march past title at their own carnivals in 1935 and 1940 in their second costume with the appliqued wave like zig zags. At the 1953 NSW surf championships, held at Caves Beach, attended by 15,000 spectators and a record 43 march past teams, the team wore a new costume – maroon with three striking white lightning bolts.
Throughout the 1960s-90s, and until the present day, the design of the Caves Beach march past costumes evolved, but they have always kept the club’s colours – maroon and white. And while male lifesavers eventually wore swimming briefs or shorts, baring their chests, the original 1930s ‘cozzie’, with its half skirt and covered chest design has always been retained for lifesaving march past costumes. Today it is an icon of Australian beach culture.