Sir Adrian Curlewis CVO CBE

His Honour Sir Adrian Curlewis CVO CBE – Palm Beach SLSC

The name in itself is a legend within the Surf Life Saving Association. He was a household name through Australia and a respected one throughout the world. It was fitting that on many occasions he was referred to as “the Father of Surf Life Saving”. During his 42-year term as President of the National Council, our Association grew from 6,398 to 29,875. Clubs in Australia increased from 110 to 230 and during this period 185,704 lives were saved. On his retirement as President of the National Council he was elected as a Life Governor, a position he held with pride and great activity.

Sir Adrian’s first love, Surf Life Saving, began in 1921 when he was instrumental in the foundation of the Palm Beach S.L.S.C where, following the gaining of the Bronze Medallion (No. 1650) in 1923, he became Captain of the Club for a period of 5 years (1923-28). During this time, he was also Delegate to the Association.

In an Interview published in the Sydney Morning Herald on December 16, 1970, Sir Adrian recalled how he made his way to Palm Beach in 1921, “The ferry to Manly, a tram to Narrabeen, a bus to Newport, a launch to Palm Beach and then a hike to the surfing beach, and there, by the deserted beach an old bell tent under the trees.

Very active in public life, Curlewis held leadership roles in numerous associations. He was Chairman (1949-71) of the New South Wales National Fitness Council, founder (1956) of the Outward Bound movement in New South Wales, national co-ordinator (1962-73) of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Australia, and President (1968-84) of the Royal Humane Society of New South Wales. In 1960 he chaired an international convention on lifesaving techniques that led to widespread adoption of the ‘kiss of life’. As President (1934-41, 1945-75) of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia, he saw the Association enter a period of crisis in the 1960s as young men left the clubs en masse and took up surfboard riding. Their pursuit of what he regarded as selfish personal interest troubled him. He was appointed CBE in 1962 and CVO in 1974, and was knighted in 1967.

Volumes could be written about the lifetime service and dedication Sir Adrian has given to Surf Life Saving. His name will live on in the minds of those that worked with him and enjoyed his company. He will not become a legend, for he was already a legend in his own time.

Sir Adrian was awarded SNB Life Membership prior to 1959.

Sir Adrian passed away on June 16th, 1985. He was aged 84.


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