Beach protection bid

Christmas morning, brand new board, better read the surf code first. Good from! Supplied.

Reasonable weather and a run of decent surf on the points brought record crowds to Main Beach over the holiday period, but lifesavers and local beach-goers reported very little crowd or parking lot rage.

“The kids went a bit crazy on New Year’s Eve,” said one local surfer, “but in the water and on the sand it was actually quite mellow, despite the ridiculous crowds.”

A senior Noosa lifesaver told Noosa Today: “Crowds have been high as expected on Main Beach over the Christmas and New Year periods, but well behaved and with

no major rescues required. Having only moderate sea conditions has helped the beach public but has intensified the crowds in the World Surfing Reserve to times when it was simply impossible to ride waves.”

The lifesaver added: “We have not reached the former peak of surf-related injuries and thank the surf community for surfing with respect and common sense over this crowded season. We are all looking forward to a more normal surf population post-holidays, and then even more normal post Coronavirus vaccinations.”

As far as surf rage is concerned, one contributing factor to its near-absence at the busiest time of year on the beach may be the Noosa World Surfing Reserve’s “Surf Code” temporary signage at most beach access points within the Reserve, which stretches from the river mouth to North Sunshine. The signs, which were installed just before Christmas as a pilot scheme for a permanent safety signage plan, explain basic safety in the surf and rules of conduct, or etiquette, so that all can enjoy riding the waves on crowded conditions. Using cartoon sketches and minimal words, the signs are aimed at surfers of all ages from around the world, but they particularly target novice surfers who often attempt the sport without the benefit of lessons.

The Surf Code signage campaign has been a major plank of Noosa World Surfing Reserve’s 2020 stewardship program, but this year the Reserve’s stewardship council will be working closely with Noosa Shire Council on getting the best results for Noosa from the Queensland government’s proposed protective legislation for World Surfing Reserves. Both the Reserve and the Council made detailed submissions to the government during the consultation period late last year, stressing not only the need for new layers of environmental protection, but for education and awareness-raising about the fragility of the coastal environment, as well as promotion of a code of behaviour to cope with crowds.

Council’s submission read in part: “The local stewardship committee for the Noosa World Surfing Reserve are working towards preserving and protecting the surfing assets of Noosa. However, they are also focussed on education and awareness-raising about the values and fragility of the Noosa coastline, and promoting surf etiquette and code of behaviour … . Council supports the aim of the stewardship committee to ensure the perspectives of all beach users are considered with competing interest managed appropriately. The stewardship committee concept and role should be central to the Government’s thinking in protecting these areas for future generations.”

Council CEO Brett de Chastel, who participated, with NWSR executives, in round-table discussions with government representatives via Zoom during the consultation period, also pointed out that while there was already a regulatory framework in place to address issues of maritime safety, including surfboard riding, surf swimming and use of PWCs, management and surveillance might need to be “ramped up … especially when there are large swells.”

But the bottom line is that behaviour and attitude is going to define the future surfing experience in Noosa during peak periods, and the Noosa World Surfing Reserve is committed to that, starting the next phase of its video campaign for Surf Code awareness as school goes back at the end of the month.