Manly and Freshwater Beach is recognised as the ‘birthplace of surfing in Australia’ and in 2012 it was declared as a World Surfing Reserve. This recognises the historical, cultural, and environmental values of famous surfing beaches. The reserve incorporates Freshwater Beach and all of Manly – from Queenscliff to North Steyne to Manly and Fairy Bower.
Manly and Freshwater has a rich surfing history. Site of the first recorded body surfing in the 1890’s, the first legal surf bathing (1902), one of the first surf life saving club (1903), the first surf boat (1903), the first boardriding (1910), and the site of Duke Kahanamoku’s famous surfing exhibition in 1914 and 1915 at Freshwater Beach.
In 1915 Northern Beaches teenager Isabel Letham, who is considered by many as being Australia’s first surfer, was plucked from a crowd and invited to ride tandem with Hawaiian legend, Duke Kahanamoku at Freshwater.
In 1964 the waves at Manly Beach were put on the international surfing map hosting the first ever Surfing World Titles with the World Surfboard Riders Championship being won by Midget Farrelly.
It’s also home to world champions Barton Lynch and Layne Beachley, four surf life saving clubs and three board riding clubs.
World Surfing Reserves (WSR) is a program launched in 2009 by the non-governmental organization Save the Waves Coalition aimed at protecting global surf habitats. The program proactively identifies, designates and enshrines international waves, surf zones and surrounding environments, protecting them from the threat of development.