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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

The dangers of famous surf break, The Pass

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The Pass. Photo Kirra Pendergast.

Maia Borrack

Byron Bay’s famous point break, The Pass, is suffering from severe overcrowding. Surfers gather from all around the world to enjoy its pristine wave. Unfortunately this means that the beach is overflowing with people, who mainly have little knowledge of water safety and surf etiquette. 

A lot of beginner surfers think The Pass is the best beach to learn, but the fact is it’s not. 

Learning to surf isn’t easy, it’s an art that requires the ability to move the board around and be in control. The Pass is a packed beach and so it is not ideal for people who are still learning to control their boards.

The number of people that crowd into that one surf spot, and the limited amount of waves, means it ends with up to five people on a wave at once! On most waves there is a near, or actual collision. I have seen this first hand. 

A close call

I have been surfing for almost two years, so I am still developing my skills and the most recent incident I remember, happened on Easter Sunday morning. 

As I stood up on my board and dropped in on the two foot wave I saw a man sitting about ten metres in front of me, on a thick nine foot board. I thought to myself: ‘He will move, it will be fine’.

But as I began to pick up speed I realised he wasn’t moving, he just sat there in the water, wide eyed as I came hurtling towards him. I tried to move my board out of the way but it was too late, I landed right on top of him. Neither of us were injured but we easily could have been.

Leg rope safety

Another big issue is, some surfers at The Pass don’t have a leg rope attached to their board. For some people it’s a lack of experience, for others it’s a conscious choice.

Young boy’s surfing head injury. Photo www.tracksmag.com.au

Surfing without a leg rope is like driving a car without brakes, it is dangerous and likely to result in injury for you or someone else. 

 Just a couple of years ago, a young grommet was hit in the head by a stray leash less longboard and was nearly killed. Nine bones in the boy’s skull were shattered and the lining of his skull had to be stitched back together. Luckily there were no signs of nerve damage.

A former Greens MP, Ian Cohen, said tough regulations should be put in place to combat this reckless behaviour in the surf. A lawyer who specialises in sport cases, Andy Gibson,  believes that surfers who refuse to wear a leg rope could be legally liable for any injuries they cause.

The beach is a public space and everyone has a right to enjoy it. But it’s really important that we behave safely and look out for other people. Surfing has become increasingly popular over the years which means the overcrowding has become worse. This means people have to be more cautious and mindful.

There are plenty of breaks in Byron Bay that are great for learning to surf. So if you are a beginner surfer and you are looking to go out at The Pass when it’s crowded, check your other options before you dive in.

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  1. As Byron grows the Pass will become just like Snapper Rocks and the Superbank. Enjoy it now. The Pass is a forgiving wave. Let the learner’s enjoy it. Wear a leash. If you are concerned about public safety ride a soft board there are some awesome ones these days.?

  2. 10 years ago a kook on a longboard speared me in the back then paddled off leaving me injured in the whitewater.
    Number of surfs at The Pass since then … Zero.

  3. I lost my balls due a Learner surfer running me over at the pass , I have no ill feeling as I was going to have a sex change anyway so I could compete as female .

  4. This article could have been written in the 70’s. The Pass has been intense for decades. I remember even before the “locals only” graffiti was written on the rock that we decided to night surf to beat the crowds. Oh and as said above geez if you can’t get around someone sitting on a mal you are 50% of the problem….

  5. Yea yea move on- piss off- restrict it to good surfers only- must have competed at regionals/states or wqs to surf there!
    better still let it only be ridden by rate payers of Byron shire only- backpackers, hipster kooks and pot bellied ex ceos farkkkkk off

  6. Sounds very similar to the issues at canoes in Waikiki. One point though, it is as an experienced surfer who should go around someone sitting in the water. Newbies especially don’t know what to do when someone is coming at them, so it is on the rider to have the experience and knowledge to navigate the wave and make sure they don’t run into people. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to pretend I’m playing pinball and avoid hitting randoms.


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