Vandals have torn down one of the first of 40 new surf safety signs being erected along at Byron shire’s beaches only days after it was installed, much to the disgust of a local surfing identity who helped design them.
Max Pendergast, who based the design to better inform overseas visitors to the dangers of the local surf, expressed his disgust on his Facebook page after one of the signs he helped instal was ripped out of the ground on Friday.
‘What sort of people is this town attracting?’ Mr Pendergast wrote after discovering during his beach walk this morning (Wednesday) that ‘some brainless turkey’ had decided to smash the sign.
Byron Shire Council says the signs were based on a simple diagram designed by children during a surf safety program, showing a rip and arrows directing people to swim with the current or away and not against it.
Council praised Mr Pendergast’s efforts when the signs were launched, saying he ‘has a passion for the ocean and education, a connection that has evolved into a dedication for surf safety and passing on that knowledge’.
But the surfer was dismayed and discouraged by the vandalism, saying he’d been ‘quite excited to see some results of my efforts but now honestly I don’t think I’ll bother anymore’.
He had targeted his design especially for non-English speaking tourists who can’t read the warnings on existing signs.
Speaking after the launch, Mr Pendergast said ’with visitors arriving daily, many from overseas, the challenge was to design a sign that did not over rely on the English written word’.
‘For many international visitors, the power of our ocean can come as a surprise and have tragic consequences,’ he said.
‘If we can educate and save lives, it’s a good outcome.’
The new surf safety signs came about after Cr Paul Spooner moved at a meeting last year for council to erect them, and he was given unanimous support.
Cr Spooner urged all residents to stop by the signs when visiting the beach, especially if they had overseas visitors.
‘While we have a great professional surf life saving service that has incredible volunteer support, the more every person can learn about the surf, the better it would be,’ he said.
Byron Shire Council provides surf life saving services that includes two life guards at each beach.
But Cr Spooner noted that t‘The only exception was beaches that were managed by National Parks at Broken Head, Tallow, The Pass and Wategos, which only had one life guard at each location’.
‘Despite requests for extra funding from National Parks, we’ve not yet been successful,’ he said.
‘Similarly, with the growing popularity of Brunswick Heads, it would be great to see additional life guard services provided for a longer period of time.
‘While we’ve approached North Coast Holiday Parks for additional funding support for the service, the answer has been no.’
His suggestion was timely, given that a 27-year-old tourist drowned at Brunswick Heads this month after lifeguards had finished patrol. Other tourists have also drowned in the shire’s northern beaches in recent years.).