A Byron-based surf school operator has hit back at criticisms of Byron Bay’s surf schools by their Ballina counterparts.
The Byron-based surf schools have long argued their Ballina competitors have an unfair advantage because they are allowed 20 students per class while the Byron schools are only allowed 10.
This unfair advantage is exacerbated, they claim, by the fact that the Ballina schools are taking a large piece of the local learn-to-surf market by misleadingly promoting themselves as offering ‘Byron surf lessons’ and then bussing students down to Ballina.
In last week’s Echo the owner of the Ballina-licensed school, Soul Surfing, said the Byron schools had been given the option to increase their their class sizes in 2017, but had chosen not to do so.
But Dean Johnston, the owner of the Byron-licensed surf school Black Dog Surfing, said no such offer was made.
‘I personally requested an increase in class sizes [to 16] at a council meeting on April 5, 2017; however, this was turned down,’ Mr Johnston said.
The minutes from the April 7 meeting show that Mr Johnston asked Council for class sizes to be increased to 14. They also show that an official from NSW National Parks, which controls access to The Pass and Clarkes Beach, said he would not allow any increase in class sizes at these beaches.
Mayor Simon Richardson suggested the schools be allowed 16 students at the other beaches in the Shire and it was resolved that this option would be investigated.
However, when the surf schools received their licence application documents later in 2017, they discovered that the maximum class size had been kept at 10 for all of Byron’s beaches.
Mr Johnston also responded to the claim by another Ballina-licensed operator – Mojosurf – that they had been ‘one of the longest original operators in the area with operations starting in October 1998’.
‘Mojo’s claim to be founding operators in the area since 1998 is misleading. As far as I am aware, Mojo only held a Byron Bay licence for five years from 2012 and after failing to retain this privilege after the 2017 tender, they are now only allowed to teach in the Ballina shire,’ he said
Byron Council has confirmed that the first and only licence given to Mojosurf to conduct surf lessons in the Shire was in September 1, 2012.
Ballina Council told The Echo that Mojo was first licensed to operate in that Shire in 2006.
Mr Johnston said that all he wanted was for consumers to be able to make an informed decision about whether they learnt to surf in Ballina or Byron Bay.
‘Byron folk stand for good, honest business and we are grateful for all the local support we have received,’ he said.
‘We will continue to uphold our 17-year standing as a down-to-earth family-run business.’
Mojosurf and Soul Surfing elected not to provide any further comment when contacted by The Echo.