Words: Drew McPherson
Paddle-outs have long been a tradition in the surfing community.
Originally to mourn a lost one, these ceremonies create a feeling of community spirit that makes you feel connected to nature and part of a bigger purpose. Recently on the east coast of New South Wales, these gatherings have been taking place with the surf community paddling out in solidarity to show their concern for the future of the coastline and to voice opposition to the proposal to drill for gas off their local beaches. The proposal to bring gas rigs to the east coast of Australia in the PEP 11 zone puts at risk the marine environment, the fragile ecosystem and the community’s way of life. With thousands of participants, it’s been incredible to see first hand the unity and passion these communities have for their beaches and coastlines. It shows that in 2021 we will not let fossil fuel companies and fossil fuel-led government policies dictate the future of our coast.
We understand that we are part of the problem as we acknowledge we currently all benefit from the burning of fossil fuels as they enable our every day lives. However, it’s also clear the future lies not with these old carbon technologies, the world is moving forward and making big advancements. Australia needs to join in with this worldwide shift in technology so as not to become stuck in the industrial dark ages. Paddle outs and protests like Stop Pep11 are about letting the government know we want them to lead the changes and take meaningful steps towards supporting renewable, sustainable energy sources.
We started this paddle out tour in Mona Vale on the Northern Beaches of Sydney where hundreds turned up and paddled out in The Basin. From there we continued onto Terrigal on the Central Coast where the local community really showed up in numbers. The next stop is Newcastle, this Saturday the 1st May at Nobby’s Beach. Surfers and ocean lovers will be paddling out in appreciation and protection of their coast. As surfers there are not too many events that bring us together and celebrate grass-roots community, we have surf competitions but they’re more about crowning a single champion. That’s why these events are important, they bring us together to celebrate our culture as surfers and ocean lovers. It’s a chance to get in the water with your fellow brothers and sisters and unite over a cause, and in this case, that cause is protecting the ocean—the very thing that gives to us unconditionally every single day.
As someone who’s been fortunate to surf this coast my whole life, I can’t think of a more important cause than protecting the coast that in many ways has protected me. We all surf for different reasons, some to rip and tear, others to trim and cruise, some surfers I know just love the social ritual of paddling out and having a yarn with mates, either way as a community we’re all out there together. If we want to keep enjoying this environment then eventually we’ve got to stand up and protect it, so we can continue to do what we love. We cannot deny our future generations in 50 years time the privilege to continue to paddle-out and find their place of peace.
If you’re in or around Newcastle this Saturday, and you’re a surfer or ocean lover, come on down and paddle out with your mates. It’s an experience that will stay with you for a long time and enrich your connection with the ocean and the community.
Saturday 01/05/2021, 11:00 am AEST, Nobbys Beach, Newcastle, NSW.