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Diving Into Clovelly’s History

By Nicola Smith on September 25, 2020 in News

The photo that hangs in Clovelly Surf Club.

This month’s cover artwork by local artist Janine Hall is inspired by an historic photo on display in the Clovelly Surf Life Saving Club (pictured). The rare image is one of the last records of a springboard that was once found on the southern side of Clovelly Beach.

Very little is known about this piece of local history that once provided sport and summer fun for Clovelly beachgoers, beyond the fact that it existed sometime between the 1930s and 1950s. The board was positioned near the second last set of steps on the south side of the bay, which many older Clovelly residents still refer to as the “springboard steps.”

The Clovelly springboard is unlike anything found at a Sydney beach or ocean pool today, although diving was historically a popular event at swimming carnivals where local clubs like the now-defunct Clovelly Waratahs competed.

The natural rock platforms at Clovelly Bay, formerly known as Little Coogee, were concreted during the Great Depression as part of council initiatives designed to provide a means of employment for local workers in the tough financial times, as well as allowing easier access to the water for bathers, so it’s likely that the springboard was installed during the 1930s.
A photo page from the Sydney Morning Herald in 1940 clearly shows an enthusiastic line-up of swimmers on the springboard alongside other photos of Sydneysiders enjoying a hot Boxing Day holiday.

It would seem that severe storms brought the springboard’s life to an end in the 1950s. A story in The Daily Telegraph on January 6, 1954, reported on the effects of rough weather.
“Seas have washed away all the sand from the south end of Coogee Beach,” the article explained. “Big waves have washed a springboard off the promenade at Clovelly.”

So, the springboard was a Clovelly fixture for at least fourteen years, but probably much longer; enough time to mark the summer swims of an entire generation of Clovelly kids.
Nearly seventy years on, it is difficult to imagine a springboard being allowed anywhere near tidal waters where sea urchins and rocks hide just beneath the surface.

If anyone has more information about the Clovelly springboard, please shoot an email to letters@thebeast.com.au.

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