Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free.’

Sadly we are not free from the tyranny of parking cops who roam our coast from Bondi to Byron with a green light for back street robbery.

In our land ‘girt by sea’ as the national anthem states, one might expect a parking cop to exercise a little discretion with temporary stoppages by the beach. The law is supposedly based on the premise of what the reasonable person might do in any given situation. Is it unreasonable to stop and gaze upon the ocean for a few moments? To contemplate the angle of a swell, the impact of a tide and the shape of a bank? The ubiquitous forecasting app, no matter how accurate, does not provide all the answers.

Alas, a humble glimpse at the ocean yesterday morning cost me the princely sum of $268. I know the sign said ‘No Standing’, but I also know that once upon a time no such sign existed at this spot. Back then it was considered a prized nook amongst surfers scoping a particular local break. No one consulted the surfers when they decided to put signs up.

My defense, ‘I was only checking the surf your honour’ probably wouldn’t stand up in court. Not even in a land where waves are a resource more abundant and valuable than iron ore.

However, if I really was wreaking havoc with social order then perhaps the licensed money poacher might have tapped me on the shoulder and kindly advised me to move my vehicle. Surely he could see me standing there on the grassy knoll watching the waves, tossing up between the regular shortboard and the step-up, like any reasonable coastal dweller might do on a day with four to five foot of glorious, offshore- swept groundswell.

Nowhere else in the world are the fines so extortionary. In New York city the same misdemeanor will cost you around $125. Meanwhile $268 is more than an average day’s pay gone in an instant.

The first penetrating sting of that little flap of printed-paper under the windscreen wiper is very painful when it contains such a hefty message. A sea of joy suddenly becomes a sea of darkness in your mind.  

Your thoughts immediately turn to all the meaningful things you might have spent the money on (board, wetsuit, fins) and all the other items you probably needed to spend it on (rent, food, bills). This is followed by a sudden hatred for your local council and a strong temptation to deface the sign. It’s almost enough to make you want to go Waltzing Matilda. Lucky the sea has more to raise the spirits than a stagnant billabong.

Perhaps you will judge these to be the senseless rants of a whinger, howling pointlessly into the afternoon wind that kicked up and made a mess of the waves.

However, let this be a tale of warning. Next time you drive along the coast and spy an enticing peak and pull over for a look, be sure to check carefully. Somewhere lurking is a thief, slyly waiting for you to walk away from the car so that he or she can nab you for a couple of hundred bucks. And the scariest part is they have the mandate to treat you like an ATM just for checking the surf.