If you follow the little ins and outs of pro surfing, you may have heard a rumor that circulated back in July. Whispers of a plan to move the Margaret River Pro to Jake’s Point in Kalbarri floated through cobwebbed internet air, and Surfing WA and Tourism WA met with Northampton Shire to judge what the reaction might be if such a move were to actually happen. The reaction was a bad one. According to a report in the West Australian, the proposal is “dead in the water.”
The whole thing most likely came about after the Margaret River Pro was because there was a shark storm. A hurricane made of thrashing, blood-thirsty sharks descended on the event and it was canceled in a great upwelling of competitors’ blood. Or that’s what one might’ve assumed if they read internet comments. In reality, though, there were a couple of attacks around the bend. First, Alejandro Travaglini, an Argentinian, was mauled. Then, just a few hours later, Jason Longgrass had his leg opened up. The Margaret River Pro was put on hold, called on, called off again, and then canceled altogether. Given the fact that a couple of dead whales were rotting nearby and the Margaret River Pro is held in the middle of a seasonal salmon run, sharks in the area shouldn’t be all that surprising. It is, though, understandable that a few surfers were more than a little uncomfortable. “They had two shark attacks on a beach close to where we’re competing,” Gabriel Medina wrote on Instagram. “I do not feel safe training and competing in this kind of place — anytime, anything can happen.” The event was made up later with a contest held at Uluwatu, which was far less sharky and wave-wise, far more exciting.
Tourism WA was decidedly a little peeved at the decision to cancel a surfing event because of shark attacks, which have historically proven to be bad for tourism. The proposed move to Jake’s Point was met with some very strong opposition from the Kalbarri Boardriders Club. Brad Farmer, the founder of National Surfing Reserves, backed the locals. “It would be highly offensive for anyone to challenge that or push the argument any further,” he said to the West Australian. “We support the position of the Kalbarri Boardriders, who are the custodians, and we uphold the rights to their position, which is to make it a competition or a commercial-free zone.”
Jake’s Point is one of Australia’s 23 National Surfing Reserves and is one of the most celebrated. “It’s not your average surf break; it’s within a national park,” Farmer explained. “It is enshrined with the seal of the then Barnett Government as a National Surf Reserve, which provides for its protection as an iconic national site.”
Kalbarri locals were up in arms about the idea because they didn’t want it tainted by the big-business cogs of the pro surfing wheel. As a National Surfing Reserve, surfers from the area have a lot of weight to throw around with happens at Jake’s Point. “What it translates to in legislation — not in this State, but in the spirit of the law — is that local surfers will have primacy in the decision-making process in relation to any matter that may adversely affect the surfing amenity or experience,” Farmer told the West Australian. “The position of the local surfers should be respected by the State, by Surfing WA — which is commercially driven I might add — and so too should Northampton council and Tourism WA, recognize it.”