"Some guys will just paddle straight past you to the inside and catch the next wave even if you’re right there in the spot waiting."
Two weeks ago, the VAL surfing world was rocked after an almost-violent episode at The Pass in Byron Bay with insult added to injury when “older white men” made fun of the surfer’s plight on the Instagram account @lordsofbyronbay, which described the event as “tragic” and “emotional.”
Now, it can be revealed that the incident wasn’t isolated and that hell-raisers are terrorising Byron Bay surf spots, including popular beginner waves The Pass and Wategos.
In a story that appeared in the Byron shire’s Echo Net Daily yesterday and headlined “When the Endless Dream Turns Sour”, the surfer reported in our previous story, Ben Mallinson, is interviewed on the near-fight that left him “shocked and confused”.
For Mr Mallinson, and a significant number of other local surfers, the issue has a deeper cause – an unhealthy surf culture in which aggression and abuse are deemed acceptable behaviours by men.
‘Somehow, we’ve arrived at this point in coastal culture where it’s totally justifiable and okay for men to abuse other men,’ Mr Mallinson says. ‘We seem to be stuck in this loop that comes from these old legacies of behaviour.’
Ominously, reports the Echo, “It was an ugly incident, but far from an isolated one.”
The region’s most popular surf spots such as The Pass, Wategos and Tallows regularly feature acts of aggression, anger and abuse, including a number of serious assaults.
One particular surfer at Wategoes is infamous within the local surf community for his aggressive and violent behaviour towards both men and women.
‘I was paddling out over the white wash as he was riding in on the wave,’ said one surfer who asked to remain anonymous. ‘He targeted me by coming as close as he could with a cut back… even though he had no need to. [Then] I get my foot squished [by his board]. You can’t say anything to him. He’ll fight you – man, woman, paddle boarder, dog, whoever.’
Fellow local surfer, Ellen, believes it’s time for surfers to have ‘a calm conversation with their mates’ when they behave aggressively. She said the unhealthy side of local surf-culture included men not respecting women in the line-up.
‘Some guys will just paddle straight past you to the inside and catch the next wave even if you’re right there in the spot waiting,’ she said.
Which side do you fall, calm conversations over fair trade coffee, or beach justice?