By Linda Hoang
A survey conducted by Waverley Council about the Bondi Beach Lifeguard Service has been met with opposition from beach goers and local residents.
The original survey indicated Council would apply restrictions to ban soft boards from the northern end of Bondi Beach to minimise the risk of collision with swimmers.
Mayor John Wakefield has responded to community concerns by revising the survey to correct its inaccuracy.
Local resident and bay swimmer, Ann Kearney, said “People who are supporting this proposed ban, it’s the people who don’t know the surf conditions down South end. North end is safe for soft boards and families and I haven’t seen seen any serious issues across the fifty odd years I’ve been on the beach. It works well.”
North Bondi Life Saving Surf Club member, Peta Estens, said “I patrol the beach voluntarily and it’s the club’s role to facilitate a sense of community while making our tourists and visitors feel safe to enjoy the beach in a variety of ways. The surf conditions can be treacherous down at South end.”
“So much of our lives are regulated. At work in the office there are rules and procedures you must follow, and one of the motivating reasons to go down to the beach is to get away from all of that. When you’re in the water or looking out at the horizon, you’ve left that all behind.”
Ms Kearney has resided in the local area for her entire life and already experienced restrictions to beach use down at Bondi.
“When I was a child, my father and my brothers were members of the North Bondi Surf Club. My brother was the club captain for many years, but unfortunately as a female, I was not allowed at the time to be member because tt was males only. My mother and I would have to get our boards and toys from the surf club through my brothers, they would sneak them out.”
“I learnt to surf and swim with my father at North End because it was safer. We’d jump off the rocks and paddle in during any month in Summer, Spring, Autumn and even Winter. As I got older and more confident we would paddle down South end but I would not have started down there and my father wouldn’t have taken me for many reasons. It was always a bigger swell down there and the South Bondi surfers were very serious and that hasn’t changed.”Under current council regulations hard boards are restricted to the southern breaks at Bondi but soft boards are allowed anywhere except between the flags.
Soft boards are defined as boards with foam tops and hard boards are made of fibreglass.
Owner of surfboard shop Sunburnt Mess and surfer, Pat Cahill, said “The south end has a lot more swell coming in and this generally creates strong rips. For anyone unfamiliar with the ocean, they could get themselves into trouble real fast.”
“With how crowded it is already, throwing more beginners and kids into the mix, I think you would see a lot more slash type injuries from people being run over or hit by other board riders. This doesn’t happen on purpose, but when people don’t know how to get out of the way or control the board they are riding, it’s bound to happen. I would compare it to putting an L plate driver onto an F1 race track in a Corolla.”
Ms Estens said “If something like this is proposed and passed it will take away the spirit of trying new things. For people who reside at North Bondi, children learners for example, will have to carry their craft 700m in the soft sand down the other end which is challenging and takes away from their readiness to learn.”
Ms Estens said, “People at Bondi look after each other whether you’re on or off duty. For swimmers, it’s marked out they go out in between the flags where no crafts are permitted. The surf life savers at North end manage this really well. What the proposal is putting first and foremost is swimmers but swimming is only one of the many activities on the beach.”
“They’re really strict on surfboards in the area and they’re always patrolling. The surf life savers as well as the council lifeguards, particularly when it’s busy in Summer, put up signs signs and giving people verbal directions not to surf in that area so it’s safe for swimmers.,” said Ms Kearney.
Mr Cahill said “It’s pretty full on all year round now, lots of people surf now a days. We’re six kilometres from a major city, the water is clean and it’s a beautiful beach, who can blame them? There’s no chance you’re getting the waves to yourself. Throw into the mix swimmers that ignore the no swimming signs, it’s mayhem.”
The revised Waverley Council Lifeguard Service Risk Review will not ban soft boards from North Bondi and but will still assess introducing buffer zones in relation to the flags, pedestrian use of the promenade and the classification of soft and hard boards.