The first era of competitive aquatic sports in South Africa began with the inaugural swimming Championships and Currie Cup water polo tournament in January 1900. At that time the Cape Colony and Natal Colony was at war with the Transvaal and Orange Free State Republics, and the recently constituted South African Amateur Swimming Union (SAASU) consisted of only the two provinces of the Cape Colony - Western Province and Eastern Province. In time other provinces would join - Transvaal, Natal, East London, Mossel Bay and the Orange River Colony. The annual event was hosted in turn by the provinces.
The Port Elizabeth municipality had built a salt water swimming pool on Humewood beach in 1898, to replace the older facility built into the harbour wall.