Up until 1902, it was illegal to swim during daylight hours. Once these restrictions were removed, surf bathing became very popular. Wollongong Surf Bathing and Lifesaving Club was opened in January 1908 at North Wollongong Beach. A rival club was opened at Stuart Park Beach, known as the Water Rats. These clubs were combined in 1914 and operated on North Beach. In 1912 a surf lifesaving club was also formed for South Beach (Wollongong City Beach).
The Australian Surf Championships were held at North Beach in 1952 and were the first championships of its kind to be held outside of the metropolitan area.