When Bill Young joined Windang Surf Life Saving Club in 1963, swimmers who found themselves in trouble were rescued using a belt and reel.
"We were working out of an old timber building," Mr Young said, reminiscing about his early days.
"You would put the belt around you and you'd swim out, save someone, then they'd drag you back to shore.
"No-one does belt rescues any more, these days you've got rubber duckies, jet-skies, satnav communication, it's changed a hell of a lot."
Having just completed his 50th year on patrol at Windang Beach, Mr Young will be honoured at the Windang club presentation night on Saturday.
Mr Young, who is also club vice-president, said there had been "highs and lows" during his 50 years at Windang.
Two people drowned outside the flags while he was on patrol, however Mr Young estimated he had helped save "between 30 and 40" swimmers.
"It's a feeling of pride, pride in what you do, pride in your knowledge," he said.
"Over the last couple of years I let the young ones do it [the rescuing]."
Mr Young said the biggest change to lifesaving during the past 50 years had been the gradual encroachment of government bureaucracy.
"Administration is a lot stricter with the volunteers," he said.
"They keep an eye on you, it's a lot more regimental these days.
"I miss the freedom we used to have."
He said the increase in Sunday trading had also taken young people away from lifesaving, as more school-aged club members sought weekend work.
"Everything used to shut on Sundays," he said.
Even though he doesn't "get up the beach as quick" as he used to, 67-year-old Mr Young still swims a kilometre every day, even during the winter.
"I just like being on the beach," he said.
"I've just been on it all my life."