What is your favourite revenge after being on the receiving end of a callous drop-in?
Perhaps a retaliatory snake, a senseless beating on the sand or, my personal favourite, and apology and paddling in never to come back. If it’s the most violent of those, your favoured form of vigilante justice might be coming to an end. Former NSW Upper House MP, Ian Cohen, is calling for greater ‘surf regulation’ in Australia. ‘There needs to be a balance between freedom and responsibility.’ The former NSW Greens politician and avid surfer told Echo Daily. ‘People need to recognise that physical injury and damaged boards in the surf aren’t okay.’
Ian’s reaction is in response to reports of so-called ‘surf rage’ in Australia’s home of finless surfing and anti-vax insanity, Byron Bay. As populations in the northern rivers skyrocket and the point breaks reach capacity, reported incidents of surf rage have also increased. Dinged boards, threats to take it to the sand, and turds being taken on cars* are common occurrences in the region, but thankfully none have surpassed when Mark Andrew Thomson (who was riding a surf mat) tried to drown former pro-surfer Jodie Cooper at Lennox head. Thomson was later found guilty in court and handed down 300 hours of community service for his role in the ‘maritime incident’.
Despite this legal precedent being set, the region’s surf fury pandemic has not been placated and Ian Cohen has a few suggestions. ‘We don’t let people behave like that at the pub, why should we let them behave that way in the surf?’ Ian continued. ‘There seems to be this unholy law in surfing that says, “what happens in the water stays in the water,” but that’s bullshit’.
For incidents involving proper fisticuffs or deliberate board damage, Ian argues the police should be brought in. ‘Think about the impact on a child or teenager of being out at The Pass and seeing these alpha blokes throwing their weight around. We’re teaching these kids to be like Lord of the Flies.’
The ex-MP isn’t the only person calling for stronger regulation; Pauline Menczer, the ’93 World Champion told Echo Daily she also believes the problem is escalating. ‘It’s just a free-for-all out there. The surf schools aren’t that great either—pushing beginners onto waves that people are already on. Short of fining people or introducing surf licences, I don’t really know what you can do about it.’
Others, however, are warier of bringing in the cops and argue the culture itself needs to change. Bob McTavish is one of these people, who looks to the surf culture in California’s Malibu for hope. ‘The culture there is ten years ahead of ours in terms of surf rage,’ he told Echo Daily. ‘There’s a very large number of people surfing at Malibu, but very little violence.’
And for anyone who hasn’t surfed Malibu, he’s right. It’s rare to see a wave with only one person on it, and when the odd belligerent burning does occur, I assume the two surfers sort it out by smoking a bowl on the beach rather than empty threats of taking it to the shore.
Personally, I believe former PM and onion fanatic, Tony Abbott, had the perfect panacea to calm a potential incident. After dropping in on Ivy Thomas in Noosa back in 2016 he performed the timeless classic ‘sorry, I didn’t see you’ and blamed poor vision in his left eye.
He has always had a problem with the left.
*yes, people have been relieving their bowels on their surf rivals bonnets up there in the quiet northern rivers.