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Bondi Beach, a National Surfing Reserve

Bondi Beach, a National Surfing Reserve that might be partially off limits to surfing. Photo: Wikimedia Commons


The Inertia

Sydney’s Waverly Council is considering banning surfing on the northern end of Bondi Beach to protect swimmers. Of course, Bondi is one of Australia’s most iconic surfing beaches, so it’s causing a bit of a stir.

As it stands right now, soft boards—you know, Wavestorms and their ilk—are allowed anywhere on the beach. Regular boards can only be used at the southern end during hours that lifeguards are on duty. But now, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, “Waverley Council will consider a restriction on boards with a fin from the northern half of Bondi Beach to boost safety for swimmers.”

The northern end of Bondi is traditionally where the learners surf, while the southern end is generally reserved for surfers with a little more experience under their belt. If a ban were to take place, it would force all the learners to the southern end, a proposal that has lifeguards worried. The proposed ban’s end goal is to create a safe space for swimmers.
“Of course our primary objective is to ensure the swimming and surfing public are safe,” wrote North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club president Mark Cotter. “However, this plan is not going to do that and stands the chance of actually making it far more dangerous.”

According to the council, though, the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. It all stemmed from a survey that included Bondi, Bronte, and Tamarama beaches in response to “resident inquiries” as part of its yearly review of operations, and no decisions have been made.

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The part that has everyone outraged is this part of the survey:

The Council motion has asked for a review of the definition of soft and hard boards and from fibreglass and foam topped to simply fin or no fin. This would restrict any craft with a fin to the breaks at the southern end of the beach.

“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,” said Waverley Mayor John Wakefied to ABC. “We are conducting a transparent and open process to involve the community to get the mix better. No policy has been derived, no policy has been accepted.”

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Still, though, even the proposal has outraged locals. “This is a silly idea that could potentially harm a lot of people,” Bondi Boardriders president Ian Wallace told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I think we’re running the risk of creating a lot more work for lifeguards.”

Two years ago, Bondi earned National Surfing Reserve status, which makes the proposal all the more upsetting to some residents. Resident and surfer Adam Gibson told Fairfax that surfers and swimmers should have equal access to the beach. “It’s like saying this beach that was recently made a National Surfing Reserve,” said Adam Gibson, a surfer from the area, to Fairfax. “[But] you can’t actually surf on 50 percent of it.”

If the ban does occur, 84 percent of Bondi beachgoers will be relegated to the south end of the beach—a statistic that the council included in the survey and one that makes the ban seem unlikely to actually occur. The survey will be open until August 9th, at which time the council will announce its decision.

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