From earliest times the surf movement in New Zealand was a branch of the activities of the Royal Life Saving Society. This society produced its own surf medallion which was awarded for competence in any one of the seven positions of the then standard surf-reel team. There were many attempts to provide separate district controlling bodies. District surf associations were formed in Canterbury and Wellington in 1917 under various names; for example, Wellington had its “Surf Bathers' Council”. The New Zealand Surf Life Saving Association was formed in Wellington in 1932. Since then it has functioned as the main surf body of New Zealand, working with district associations in the main centres. This control has been widened and strengthened until today there are 10 district associations, often wrongly called “surf provinces”. The practice has been to pass local control to a district association as soon as a minimum of three clubs has been established in that district.
The New Zealand system was paid a great compliment a few years ago when the Australian movement, for many years ruled from the offices of the New South Wales Surf Association, decided to adopt the New Zealand pattern. Since then the Australian administration has been happier and as a result, the next step has been made possible – namely, the establishment of an International Council of Surf Life Saving.