A History of Dawlish Swimming and Life Saving Association
It is believed that Dawlish Swimming Club was founded in 1865 and is probably the second oldest club in Devon after Port of Plymouth (1862). Originally the club had strong associations with water polo with all training and matches being played in the sea. Swimming competitions were held off the main beach which enabled spectators to get a good view of the proceedings.
There were close links with Exeter Swimming Club and it is noted that in 1894 Dawlish hosted the opening dip of the Exeter Swimming Club. Members caught the 7.00am train from Exeter to Dawlish for a swim and breakfast on the beach. The most famous Dawlish swimmer of all was Frederick Holman who, at the age of 25, became the Olympic Champion for the 200 meters breaststroke at the IV Olympiad held in London in 1908. His time of 3.09.20 was a new Olympic record. Sadly he died in 1913 at the age of 29, after contracting typhoid from the swimming baths in Exeter.
In 1974 an indoor pool opened in Dawlish which boasted a 25m, five lane pool. The outer walls were originally constructed of thick plastic sheets with a glass roof which could be opened or closed according to the weather conditions. In 1981 the pool was refurbished and again in 1994 when a sports hall was added to the site and became Dawlish Leisure Centre.
Another date of note is that in 1984 a Dawlish team visited their twin town of Carhaix, and in 1986 the Swimming Club hosted a swimming weekend for members of Carhaix swimming club. A return visit in 1987 was unfortunately cancelled due to a mix up in dates.
During the 1980’s the club trained on one evening a week, and an additional evening on alternate weeks during the summer, but this was increased to 3 sessions a week by the late 1990’s. On average 10 swimmers entered the Devon Championships each year, and 2 or 3 would gain District qualifying times. One also achieved a National time. There were generally about 15 teams in the Devon Relay events for the younger age groups, and Dawlish frequently finished in the top 6. But pool time was always an issue, and at that time the better swimmers had to join Exeter to have the opportunity to train more. The swimmers took part in approximately 10 friendly galas each year, travelling to Cornwall, North Devon, Somerset and Bristol, with 2 or 3 home galas.
In the early 2000’s the Teignbridge Swimming Clubs (Dawlish, Kingsteignton, Newton Abbot and Teignmouth) joined forces in training and competing together as TTT (The Teignbridge Team), providing an extra 2 hour session per week. The junior Octopush teams were also members of TTT, and Dawlish actively promoted Open Water swimming, Duatholon and Octopush as alternative swimming activities. Members were encouraged to participate in other sports including athletics, boxing and cross-country running.
When 7Xtreme club was formed several swimmers were invited to join to take advantage of the additional training times, which included early morning training. But Dawlish is now able to offer early morning training to those of suitable standard and the top squads have the opportunity to train six times per week. This year 19 swimmers entered the Devon Age Group Championships and 5 attained District qualifying times.
The local mini-league was set up in 1977. Over the years the teams competing in the league have changed but today the participants are Dawlish, Exeter City, Exmouth, Newton Abbot, Sid Vale and Torquay. Dawlish won this trophy for the first time in 2000 and several times since.
In 2000 Dawlish joined the Speedo league (now Arena League) and enjoyed considerable success coming 10th in Division 3. Having moved up to 7th in 2001, 6th in 2002, they were promoted to division 2 where they came 8th in 2006. The divisions have now changed to Premier, Division One and Division Two and Dawlish came 22nd in Division One in 2014.
They re-entered the Devon Inter-club championships in 1999 coming 15th out of the 17 clubs who had entered. By 2001 they moved to 11th position out of 18 clubs, and improved again to 4th position in both 2006 and 2007. Their highest position was 2nd out of 15 clubs in 2012, and this year 2015 they came 7th.
The format of the club championships have changed over the years. In the 1980’s there was just one distance in each stroke for combined age groups and an open 4x25m Individual Medley. The heats were held on one evening and the finals the following week. Now there is a range of events for all ages in all strokes and distances. This is a good preparation for the County Championships for those who gain qualifying times.
The club depends on a strong team of volunteers under good leadership, and in 2004 was one of the first clubs in the county to receive ‘Swim21’ accreditation. This is the ASA’s development programme to act as a tool for clubs to help swimmers, coaches and administrators achieve their full potential. Although the accreditation was allowed to lapse the club is now actively working towards regaining this recognition.
The club welcomes swimmers of all ages and abilities offering training from beginners through to national standard. The swimmers range in age from 4+ to 78 years.
If you fancy becoming one of us, we welcome all swimmers of all abilities to join the club, and we offer training to take you all the way through to National level, contact us through the link on this website.
- Mr Lockton 1970-1975
- Norman Storey 1975-1981
- Margaret Storey 1981-1989
- Norman Storey 1990-1996
- Jenny Geary 1997-2001
- Dave Townsend 2002-2003
- Phil Shute 2004-2007
- Matt Bernstein 2008
- Norman Storey 2008-2009
- Dave Avery 2010-2011
- Darren Farley 2011
- Norman Storey 1971-1996
- Chris Chappell 1997-2007
- Sam Greensitt 2007-2008
- Chris Chappell/Garry Mitchell 2009-2010
- Garry Mitchell 2011-