Thursday, 29 August 2019

The world’s first successful trial of an Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) for surf rescues took place at Avalon Beach in 1969.

To help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IRB in Avalon, we’re inviting the community to paint new designs on the bollards in front of the Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) on Sunday 22 September, 11am-3pm.

The previous artwork has been worn away by the elements and it’s a great opportunity to brighten up the bollards with your best interpretation of a beach theme. Materials will be provided and a BBQ on offer.

History of the Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB)

The first trial of the IRB was conducted by Warren Mitchell OAM and his brother, Don, both Life Members of Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) at Avalon Beach on 2 November 1969.

A month later, the first IRB surf rescue took place when two members of Avalon Beach SLSC – Warren Mitchell OAM and John Fuller – rescued eight children caught in a rip in the centre of Avalon Beach.

Warren pioneered the use of inflatable boats for surf rescues. At Avalon Beach, he experimented with, modified and continued to improve on the original IRB design over time. His concept went on to revolutionise surf lifesaving methods.

“Given the great air of uncertainty that had surrounded the concept, I was just a little happy to find the bloody thing worked! We worked against great odds. It was a team effort by Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club”. - Warren Mitchell OAM

IRBs proved themselves faster, more efficient and safer than the traditional belt, line and reel, or oared surfboats used by Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) and eventually, the vessel replaced these earlier rescue methods.

Warren’s work revolutionised surf lifesaving methods in Australia, and overseas, paving the way for other innovations that help surf lifesavers to save lives.

More than 200,000 people rescued by SLSA IRBs around Australia, and the many more who have been rescued in some 40 other countries that now use IRBs for surf rescues, can thank Warren for persevering with his original idea.

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