The Last Century

Jim Smith with squad

Swimming in the early years of Coffs Harbour became enormously popular within the fledgling community due to the location of the settlement being privileged with an outstanding natural harbour, breathtaking beaches and a clean deep water creek.
Members of the public regularly held meetings at various public or private houses as far back as the early 1900s to organise informal swimming events and infrequent carnivals.
In September 1923 an enthusiastic meeting took place at Messrs Norton & Co’s Jetty Rooms comprising of leading local swimmers H. Cremer, Roy Fern and Jim Smith for the formation of a Swimming Club to promote swimming not only as a recreational activity but also on a competition level. Swimming lessons for the young, together with coaching and training for the more experienced commenced in earnest and it was decided to hold a carnival towards the end of the year. The majority of the Clubs swimmers and members were also affiliated with either the Jetty or Park Beach Surf Clubs.
The community involvement was evident in that such a short time a competitive course was completed at the Saltwater (Coffs) Creek tidal Baths, Coffs Jetty close to where the old Butter Factory was situated. Male and female dressing sheds were erected and a starting platform finished. The Club with the approval of the Dorrigo Shire Council gained full control of the Coffs Creek Swimming Baths. In the following years a large bank platform was constructed as well as two springboards assembled and arrangements were at hand to have the baths lit for night swimming.
With much anticipation the Coffs Harbour Swimming Club held its inaugural carnival on Friday 28th December 1923. The event was extremely successful with over 300 people attending. Some events of the meet were the 25 yards boys and girls under 10s & under 14s scratch races. The men’s and women’s 50 yards open handicap. The men’s and women’s 50 yards breaststroke. The men’s 200 yard handicap relay was won by the Coffs Harbour Surf Club team earning £2 and a trophy. Most events were awarded trophies, medals and cash prizes. Novelty events were also contested with the cork bobbing competition, the 50 yard blindfold race and musical tins race. Ample refreshments were also served.

The tidal pool was a fully operating 50 yard facility but would often be damaged in extreme weather conditions. Local working bees were often organised to maintain the baths, which served the Club and community for over forty years.
An indication of the Coffs Harbour swimmers strong and sturdy character was evident when the nearby Butter Factory would release its milk surplus into the creek while the tide was turning, therefore handicapping swimmers in the outer lanes. Coffs swimmers were also unluckily disadvantaged at regional and state meets with their turns due to the oyster beds growing on the pool ends.
Many carnivals followed in the subsequent decades until the opening of the Coffs Harbour War Memorial Pool in 1969. This new facility attracted new interest in the sport within the local community and in the decades to follow Coffs Harbour became a robust Club on the regional swimming calendar.