Many young lifesavers who have just completed their Bronze Medallion and are getting ready to march in the Mardi Gras parade have always known the surf clubs to have plenty of out gays and lesbians.

But some of those young guns, like 24-year-old Owen Craven, know the community service has changed a lot over the years.

I did my first patrol in November. It’s very social, the club community is a lot stronger than you’d expect, Craven said.

My boyfriend used to be a lifesaver. He now marvels that there are whole patrols out in Bondi with gay guys and girls. It was never like that at the club when he was doing it.

His partner, 41-year-old Sean Gallagher, competed professionally as a lifesaver for almost 10 years and was honoured by Princess Diana after winning the Bicentennial Surf Carnival in 1988.

I kept my sexuality to myself, not necessarily because it was homophobic but because it was a very masculine environment and I didn’t know anyone else who was gay. I didn’t think it was part of surf lifesaving culture, Gallagher said.

It’s fantastic to see them in Mardi Gras, but it also highlights that there are a lot of clubs in Sydney which are very welcoming of gay and lesbian members. It shows the evolution of surf lifesaving in general.

Craven won’t get to meet Princess Diana, but he will be one of those excited first timers marching with his gay and lesbian lifesaver friends down Oxford St this Saturday.

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