Novice surfers in their sights
IT IS only a matter of time before someone is killed at Byron Bay’s legendary surf break, The Pass, say experienced local surfers.
A group of Byron’s elder surfers has called for an urgent self-regulated designation of surfing zones, like those in the ski fields, following a near fatal accident at The Pass last Friday.
Accomplished junior surfer, Pascal Dattler, 10, received critical head injuries when hit by a learner’s stray surfboard.
Just last Tuesday, long-time Byron surfer Bruce Reid received 10 stiches to a head-gash sustained from another loose board lost by a learner.
“This is the worst I’ve seen it in 30 years,” Mr Reid said.
“I was duck-diving through a wave and collected this guy’s board in the head when I resurfaced. He was from overseas and he just didn’t get it. He was more concerned about his board.”
Former professional long boarder Ben Bennink, of Byron Bay, has long advocated for better education and surf protocols.
“Last week I was hit in the face by a beginner. My partner, Yoko, was hit in the arm by a learner on a hire board. A friend of our son was run over by an inexperienced surfer and bruised. They’re only the incidents we know about. Learning to surf is about fun, but being a learner is no excuse for ignoring your responsibility to your fellow surfers,” he said.
“Traditionally beginners have always learnt to surf on the inside break, first in the white water away from the main break and the crowd. Then they progress to the smaller waves on the inside, still away from the crowd.
“This is done over a year or two at least and it’s the way it’s been done throughout surfing history. In recent years, however, surfing’s popularity has exploded and naturally many folks wish to surf the same waves as the experienced surfers.”
Local surfer and ski instructor Andy Gordon believes a self-regulated system like those used in the snowfields would work well at The Pass.
Along with Lloyd Lawton, former president of the Byron Bay Boardriders, the men believe it is time to institute a system designating areas for advanced, intermediate and beginners – and simple information signs so that surfers can easily self-assess their ability.
National Parks and Wildlife manager Sue Walker said the Cape Byron Trust would welcome the group’s suggestions.
“If there’s a group of surfers who have ideas for signage to improve surf safety then we would be more than happy to meet with them,” she said.