Proposed Bondi beach surfing ban condemned as 'craziness'

Jonathan Pearlman
A surfer heading into the sea on Bondi Beach in Sydney - AFP

A proposal to ban surfing at a section of Australia’s Bondi beach – one of the best known beaches in the world – has caused public outrage and was condemned as “silly” and potentially dangerous.

The local Waverley council has been surveying views on a ban at the northern end of the beach, which has lighter surf and is popular with families, children and beginners. 

But the potential ban caused anger among locals and prompted warnings that it could make the beach more dangerous because it could force inexperienced surfers to use the northern end, where the surf is rougher and waves are bigger.

Don Atkinson, a local surfer, dismissed the plan as "craziness".

"It would be really dangerous to push every single surfboard on the whole beach down into that south corner," he told ABC News. “I think it's really nuts.”

Shane Hartwig, another local surfer, said: "The beach is for everybody. There's enough regulation in Australia without having to stop things because of perceived danger."

A proposal to ban surfing on most of Australia's iconic Bondi Beach has triggered anger among the local boarding community Credit:  RICK RYCROFT/AP

The council has been conducting the survey as part of a review of beach safety. Fibreglass boards are already banned at the southern end but the survey asked locals for their views on removing all boards with fins, including those made from foam. 

The local mayor,  John Wakefield, said the council conducted the survey because “large numbers of people” had complained about the use of foam boards between the red-and-yellow flags, which denote an area safe for swimming. 

"Soft boards are no longer as soft as they were and there's been a number of residents and users of the beach who have expressed concerns about safety,” he said.  But Mr Wakefield insisted there was no current plan for a ban.

“The issue is becoming a little bit overblown," he said. “No policy has been devised. No proposal has been received.

There's a survey asking questions about what people perceive to be problems and potential solutions."

Surfing organisations said that a ban would end the traditional progress of surfers at Bondi, who often start on foam boards at the safer northern end and then shift to using fibreglass boards at the southern end.

“The southern end of the beach is the most dangerous end, it has the biggest waves and it has more rips,” Bondi Board Riders president Ian Wallace told ABC News.

"You're going to put everyone down in that one end and then you're going to throw your learners in there, your kids in there … it just can't work."

The North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club said in a message to members that it opposed the move.

"Our primary objective is to ensure the swimming and surfing public are safe, however, this plan is not going to do that and stands the chance of actually making it far more dangerous," it said.