Surfing body says iconic break is off limits

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Adam PoulsenMidwest Times
National Surfing Reserves founder and patron Brad Farmer.
Camera IconNational Surfing Reserves founder and patron Brad Farmer. Credit: James Bonnor

A proposal to move the Margaret River Pro to iconic Kalbarri surf break Jake’s Point is “dead in the water”, National Surfing Reserves founder and patron Brad Farmer has said.

Last month reports emerged that Surfing WA and Tourism WA had spoken with the Northampton Shire about the possibility of Kalbarri hosting the event.

The news was met with strong opposition by Kalbarri Boardriders, who vowed to fight the proposal.

Mr Farmer, who was instrumental in having Jake’s Point named one of Australia’s 23 National Surfing Reserves in 2010, said the break was off limits.

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“On behalf of National Surfing Reserves, we can today declare that it is a no-show — it is dead in the water,” he said.

“It would be highly offensive for anyone to challenge that or push the argument any further.

“We support the position of the Kalbarri Boardriders, who are the custodians, and we uphold the rights to their position, which is to make it a competition or a commercial-free zone.

“The position of the local surfers should be respected by the State, by Surfing WA — which is commercially driven I might add — and so too should Northampton council and Tourism WA, recognise it.”

Mr Farmer said Jake’s Point was made a National Surfing Reserve because it was a “sacred site” for surfers — that is, it had not been “commercialised or tainted by any outside influence”.

“It’s not your average surf break; it’s within a national park,” he said.

“It is enshrined with the seal of the then Barnett Government as a National Surf Reserve, which provides for its protection as an iconic national site.

“What it translates to in legislation — not in this State, but in the spirit of the law — is that local surfers will have primacy in the decision-making process in relation to any matter that may adversely affect the surfing amenity or experience.”

In other words, local surfers would have the first and last word regarding any decision made within the bounds of the National Surf Reserve.

VideoThe surfer was surfing at the same surf break that was hosting the Margaret River Pro which was cancelled last week.

Mr Farmer said holding a competition at Jake’s Point would set a precedent for similar events to occur, adding the move would amount to a “desecration”.

“It would divide the town, and it would be a very unfortunate manoeuvre if the proponents were to continue pushing an unwelcome proposal to the the WA Government,” he said.

Mr Farmer said surfers were a legitimate user body and were entitled to have a say.

“They don’t seek to influence the outcomes of other user bodies, and nor should other user bodies attempt to influence or make decisions that override the sovereignty of the local surfers,” Mr Farmer said.

“There is only one place in that entire region that the surfers claim sovereignty or decision making over, and it’s a 500m wave.”

The future of the Margaret River Pro was brought into question in March after two surfers were attacked near Gracetown during the event, prompting organisers to cancel the competition. At the time several competitors publicly expressed safety concerns because of the threat of sharks.

Tourism WA has an agreement with Surfing WA to hold the event in 2019 but are in early talks with Surfing WA and the World Surf League regarding future years, a Tourism WA spokesman said.

Mr Farmer, who also founded the Surfrider Foundation Australia and authored a surfing guide to Australia in 1986, said the Margaret River area had a plethora of world-class surf breaks.

“The World Surfing League is arguing that they’re not good enough breaks. That’s absurd,” he said.

“They (the organisers) need to pack up, go back to Margaret River, or go to plan B, which is probably Gnaraloo (about 550km north of Kalbarri).”

Kalbarri Boardriders president Kit Rayner declined to comment, but said the organisation would release a statement pending the results of an environmental scientist’s report.

The Shire of Northampton also declined to comment on the proposal.

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