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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Wear protection in the surf

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Can I make a plea to all our new-style surfers who have abandoned leg ropes to take five minutes out and give some consideration to others using the surf. After 30 years of relatively safe surf at Wategos Beach, it seems a new generation of boardriders have abandoned a vital piece of protection, the leg rope. Wearing protection when undertaking inherently dangerous sporting activities makes sense whether one is indulging in car or bike racing, hot sex or surfing. It’s protection not just for you; it’s protection for other surf users.

Now I’m sure that there are some boardriders who never fall off their boards, but over 35 years of observing and surfing at the Cape and Wategos Beach, I haven’t met any. Even top-flight champions like Rusty have been known to come off and I know ace local mal riders like Alan, Gordon and Gary have all chewed the sand on occasion.

Byron Hospital doctors will tell you they are facing increasing evidence of injury coming from our ever-crowded surf breaks and it’s not surprising. How can anyone control and predict what happens with your board if you come off and lose it just 50 metres from the beach? I’ll tell you what it is: it’s an unguided missile looking for a target!

And rope-free surfing is happening with increasing pace at Wategos Beach, The Pass and Clarkes Beach. Wategos is today what it has always been over the past half century: the primary beach for Byron Bay families and tourists alike to bring babies, toddlers and little children to play and learn their first surfing skills in the shallows.

This is serious stuff. All boardriders when they enter the surf zone have a duty of care to other surf users to take all due care and precaution not to injure or negligently place others in danger of serious injury. If you lose your board from out the back and it hits, hurts and injures any of the little children playing in the shallows, get into your head that you have a duty of care to that child with a consequent legal liability for your negligence in not wearing a leg rope, which has been a common safety practice for decades.

It’s not a free zone out there; it’s not a ‘no man’s land’. The beach and the inner surf zone is no different from the land and its use is regulated by various government authorities plus there is the civil law waiting for you. Get it into your head that if you injure someone you could be facing very, very serious legal consequences, which may change your life for a long time.

I urge all new-style and hipster surfers to take this bit of advice seriously (and yes, that includes you, my old hipster mate, Mal from Federal). If you want to surf free, by all means go out to the Cape, go down the cliff, go along Tallows, but when you surf at Wategos, The Pass and Clarkes, always put a leg rope on.

Let’s all enjoy safe surfing and an injury-free summer and make Wategos a leg-rope-only area. If you spot someone without a leg rope in the break, how about a polite suggestion that next time they come to Wategos, rope up!

Oliver Dunne, Wategos Beach


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  1. A thoughtful local like myself (since 1964) would probably pick the surfboard up and throw it up on the rocks from a great distance.This would leave some scars on the surfboard of the thoughtless surfer who would then think twice about riding without a leash!


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