Barely a month goes by without the mainstream media sinking its teeth into the topic of ‘surf rage.’ The latest, from the Daily Telegraph, suggests colour-coded signs as the next phase in surf-violence prevention. It follows a 2012 initiative by the Gold Coast police in which they stalked several of Coolangatta’s top spots – D’Bah, Snapper, Rainbow Bay, Kirra – in a bid to curb surf rage. And who could forget the piece titled “Blood Surf” by one of Australia’s top magazines, in which they investigate surfing’s “history of bloody violence.”
But stop and think for a second about how many hours you’ve spent in the water versus how many punch-ups you’ve actually seen? The percentage would barely break out of the decimals. Which brings us to the very obvious conclusion that there is no problem with violence in surfing. It also makes the point that the respect-and-localism-based-rules that have sustained us for 50-plus years are in fact very effective.
“They are known as the Wolfpak or simply ‘the boys.’ They use fear and their fists to command respect in the surf along the North Shore of Oahu, a seven-mile stretch of some of the world’s most renowned waves. At the celebrated Banzai Pipeline, they determine which waves go to whom, and punish those who breach their code of respect for local residents and the waves,” it reads.
Everyone remembers the Nat Young incident. But it’s a rarity. It’s just when it does happen, it ends on the front page!
Puh-lease. Surfing is subject to some serious man-made dangers but surf rage doesn’t rate among them.
“Mate, the big collisions, the daily collisions for sure are the biggest danger,” says a Sydney-based professional lifeguard working some of the country’s busiest beaches (who preferred to remain nameless).
He compares the likelihood experiencing surf rage directly or indirectly as akin to “getting eaten by a shark versus dying in a fatal car accident.
“You’re more likely to die in a fatal car accident and same thing goes for surf rage versus copping a board to the face,” he says. He deals with fin-chops, fractures and various other severe injuries on a daily basis, all the result of careless kooks who injure and place people at risk. All with with total impunity from the law and any real repercussions. “It’s hard to say what’s more dangerous. Is it an experienced guy on an SUP with no leggie or a beginner on a fibreglass-rented mini-mal for the day? The irony is they’re generally injuring each other,” he says.