In 1959, representatives from seven winter swimming clubs which basically were all off-shoots from their neighbouring Surf Life Saving Clubs, met in order to form an association. These clubs were (from north to south) Bondi Icebergs, Bronte Splashers, Clovelly Eskimos, Coogee Penguins, Maroubra Seals, Cronulla Polar Bears and Wollongong Whales. The object of the duly formed NSW Winter Swimming Association was to organise an annual winter swimming competition at which members of the seven clubs could socialise and compete formally.
Between 1959 and 1974 the NSW Winter Swimming Association grew and grew and included now non existent clubs such as the Blacktown Beavers (water temperature 8 degrees) and the Gunnedah Craybobs (water temperature 2 to 4 degrees). A total of 74 clubs have been or are now members of the current 42 club association.
In 1976 the Association was expanded to accommodate clubs from Queensland and Western Australia and the Winter Swimming Association of Australia was formed. These additional clubs also were mainly offshoots of Surf Clubs dotted around the Australian coastline. The office bearers of the NSW Association were transferred into the new national body and a 7 year championship rota was put in place with the order being Sydney, NSW regional, Queensland, NSW regional, Queensland, Sydney and Western Australia.
Over 5,000 swimmers now compete weekly during the five winter months of May to September. Over 200 Olympians and many, many SLSA champions are past or present champions at the WSAA Championships.
Ten events were held at the first National Championships in Newcastle in 1976. Currently thirty two events are held on the third Sunday in September with over 1000 swimmers taking part. 2008 saw the introduction of female competition adding 8 events and 200 swimmers. The Over 85 years 50 metres for men was added to the 2010 championships.