Should violent and abusive surfers face month-long bans from local breaks?
What about reporting serious surf rage incidents involving injury and broken boards to the police?
Or do we just need a more mature surf culture?
These are some of the suggestions local surfing elders have made to address toxic surf behaviour in Byron Bay.
As the spray-painted ‘locals only’ sign at The Pass was replaced with a proud Aboriginal flag last week, former NSW Upper House MP and long-time surfer, Ian Cohen, said it was time for greater regulation in the waves.
‘There needs to be a balance between freedom and responsibility,’ said Mr Cohen, who has surfed for nearly 50 years, much of that time in the Shire.
‘People need to recognise that physical injury and damaged boards in the surf aren’t okay.
‘We don’t let people behave like that at the pub, why should we let them behave that way in the surf?’
Mr Cohen put forward a number of possible regulations that could be imposed, including short-term bans for surfers who were violent and abusive.
‘Unfortunately there are a few guys out there who have a real chip on the shoulder and seem to enjoy pushing other people around,’ he said.
Mr Cohen said that the most serious incidents, such as physical assaults and deliberate damage to property, needed to be reported to the police.
‘There seems to be this unholy law in surfing that says, “what happens in the water stays in the water”, but that’s bullshit’, Mr Cohen said.
‘You’re subject to the same laws and human rights in the water as you are on land’.
‘Think about the impact on a child or teenager of being out at The Pass and seeing these alpha blokes throwing their weight around,’ he said.
‘We’re teaching these kids to be like Lord of the Flies.’
For legendary local surfboard shaper, Bob McTavish, the solution to the issue of conflict in the surf lay in creating a more mature surf culture.
Mr McTavish did not comment on whether greater regulation in the surf was needed, but said Byron could look to the surf culture at California’s Malibu Beach as a way forward.
‘The culture there is ten years ahead of ours in terms of surf rage,’ he said.
‘There’s a very large number of people surfing at Malibu, but very little violence,’ he said.
‘When you pull up at Malibu, you’re going to be happy if you get two or three waves in the whole session. It’s a give-and-take situation.
‘Wategos seems to have that mature culture. You hear people cheering and whooping when someone gets a good wave.
‘But it hasn’t permeated The Pass yet.’