Lifesaving Sport

Lifesaving sport is not only a highly competitive and dynamic international sport, but also a vehicle for engaging young people in lifesaving and our humanitarian goal to prevent drowning.  Lifesaving sport is used at the grassroots to keep lifesavers and lifeguards fit and to keep practising their skills and provides the opportunity to improve on techniques. 

Originally developed to improve the physical and mental agility of lifeguards, lifesaving sport has grown into an international competitive swimming discipline that tests fitness, rescue and first aid skills.

To find out more about the history of RLSS lifesaving sport click here

To mark the Centenary of the Royal Life Saving Society in 1991, a Commonwealth Lifesaving Championship was held in Coventry (UK) and subsequent Championships have been held at

  • Dandenong, Victoria, (Australia) 1994
  • Coventry (UK) 1996
  • Eastbourne (UK) 2001
  • Durban (South Africa) 2003
  • Bath (UK) 2006
  • Edmonton (Canada) 2009
  • Durban (South Africa) 2011
  • Canberra (Australia) 2013

Following a strategic review of the Championships in 2014 and the recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Drowning report, it was agreed that the event needed to shift its focus to look at development of lifesaving skills through sport.  The Festival of Lifesaving was developed and incorporated a Lifesaving Challenge element and development opportunities alongside the traditional Lifesaving Championships.  The aim of the Festival of Lifesaving was to deliver a global event to enhance the profile and reach of Drowning Prevention to strengthen our influence and maximise the economic, social and development benefits.

The inaugural Festival of Lifesaving was held in Durban (South Africa) in 2017 and then in Leeds (UK) in 2019.

A review after the 2019 Festival highlighted that combining the two elements of the Festival of Lifesaving wasn’t achieving the objective of making it a sport for all event.  Therefore, it has been agreed that we revert to the traditional RLSS Commonwealth Lifesaving Championships and look at a separate sport for all programme, a review of which is underway.

Since 2001, the RLSS Commonwealth Lifesaving Championships have been sanctioned by both the Commonwealth Games Federation and International Lifesaving Federation (ILS).

The Commonwealth Lifesaving Championships consists of a National and Development Team competition.  The HRH Prince Michael of Kent Salver is presented to the winning National Team and the John Long Trophy is presented to the winning Development Team.  In addition to these trophies, the Langland Bay Cups are presented to the highest point scoring female and male at the Championships and the Mrs Henry Cup is presented to recognise an individual from a RLSS developing lifesaving sport branch.

Commonwealth Lifesaving Championships provide a unique opportunity for international competition as well as development and mentoring opportunities for athletes, coaches, officials and managers. The Royal Life Saving Society has an ethos of development and seeks to foster development opportunities in all forums. The Commonwealth Lifesaving Championships are not solely about providing a world-class sporting event, but also features development initiatives to encourage greater engagement and participation of lifesaving organisations across the Commonwealth. 

RLSS Commonwealth Lifesaving Championships are intended for bona fide lifesavers who have demonstrated a commitment to lifesaving – people who are lifesavers first, competitors second.