Last Sunday’s Cyclone Gita swell saw tow surfing and paddle surfing coexisting. Is it legal? Should it be? Tracks investigates.
“Jet skiing is the coolest water sport since surfing!” That’s the opening line of the City Of The Gold Coast’s website section on Personal Water Craft (PWC). Imagine just how cool it is then when you combine the two, as happened with alarming frequency on the recent Cyclone Gita swell at Kirra.
With the swell at its peak, the easterly eight-foot, 16-second period swell was concentrating down on the Kirra stretch. With that much water moving, the rip was horrendous. It made paddle surfing difficult, but nowhere near impossible. It also meant that having a jetski was a considerable advantage, an advantage that many (to be fair mainly high-profile) surfers decided to use.
“Look if skis are used for a taxi service, which was very much needed on Sunday, then I think they are great,” says Woofer Blake, a Goldy-based Tracks reader who surfed the swell. “However if they are used to tow surfers into waves at the expense of people paddling, like me, then they can go and get fucked!”
Bozley wasn’t the only one getting irritated at the presence of so many jetskis in the water. Long time Gold Coast filmer Justin Gane, went on social media to post some archive footage of what Kirra used to be like and to provide some perspective. “Since we're all in a spin after Cyclone Gita and the Kirra antics thought you all might like a flashback to when Kirra was Kirra and when surfers still paddled into waves,” wrote Gane.
Since we're all in a spin after #cyclonegita and the #Kirra antics thought you all might like a #flashback to when Kirra was Kirra and when #surfers still paddled into #waves. Cyclones name was Kirsty and lasted for over a week. This is the amazingly gifted #surfer China not only paddling in but #switchfoot #surfing in the #tube. Still the best Kirra I seen back in early #1996 and also one of the best #cyclone #swells too. #blastfromthepast #fromthevault #barrel #kegs #talent #amazing #pulse #surfmovie #surfvideo #movie #clip @swellnet @surfline @surfinglife @mysurftv @magicseaweed @surfingworld @surfer_magazine @18secondsmagazine @mysurftv
Elsewhere many people who watched the endless footage as it was beamed round the world were confused just how paddle and tow surfing could coexist at one of the world’s most crowded breaks.
“What the actual fuck? What are the rules in Australia?” Asked our Saffa correspondent Craig Jarvis. “If a ski were to go thru the lineup at Supers, Bruce's or Seal Point on any day whatsoever the guy would either be put in jail, or fucked up so properly on the beach afterwards that he would never ever venture out there again.”
After a quick scan of the QLD Maritime Safety laws it seems the legislation comes under the Gold Coast City Council Local Law No. 10 (bathing reserves) 2004, at section 17(5) and (7). This states that a person must not use a vessel for tow-in surfing or power assisted surfing in a bathing reserve (which includes the whole Superbank) if the vessel is operated within 400 metres seawards of low water mark at ordinary spring tides; or 200m of all aquatic equipment (which includes surfboards), wind powered craft and swimmers.
Now it could be argued that most of the jetskis were sitting more than 200 metres out from the surfers in the lineup when they provided their mechanical assistance into the funneling double-ups. If that were the case they weren’t breaking any maritime law. Having said that I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to find examples where paddle in surfers had skis buzzing past them well within the 200 metre limit.
Of course this legislation doesn’t cover the more vague and unwritten surfers code of conduct, known as subclause 8a section (5b) and titled Eddie Wouldn’t Tow, which generally says that if there are people paddling then tow surfing isn’t allowed. However moral and legal issues aside, the problem isn’t going anywhere and will no doubt arise every time a cyclone spins in the Coral Sea. There have already been PWC exclusion zones enforced at Currumbin bar and Tallebudgera Creek, it’s not a stretch to think one could be enforced at the Superbank.
Of course Darren Handley may have made all this academic. His recent efforts at the height of the swell may have done more than anyone to have skis banned for ever. No, this it wasn’t just a fuck up, but an Anti-Jetski Activist operating at the top of his game. Well done DH!