Surfer ‘held underwater’ in alleged surf rage attack
ONE of Australia's most well-known female surfers feared for her life as she was allegedly held underwater in a ferocious surf rage attack at an idyllic NSW north coast surf break.
Former world tour professional surfer Jodie Cooper, 54, was allegedly held under water three times by surfer and surfboard shaper Mark "Carcass" Thomson, 56, after an incident at Lennox Head.
Police will allege Ms Cooper, once a runner-up to the women's world pro tour championship, survived drowning by going limp and pretending to become unconscious.
Detective Chief Inspector Cameron Lindsay from Richmond Police District said a 56-year-old man was charged last week with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
"We will allege that he held this female underwater to the point that she thought she was going to drown," he said.
A police statement said: "The woman resurfaced three times but was pushed back underwater again.
"This only stopped when the woman went limp in order to feign unconsciousness."
Police have made the unusual move of revealing they are considering upgrading the charges against Mr Thomson to more serious crimes.
Det Chf Insp Lindsay said the alleged surf rage assault, at 11am on August 22, happened when the 54-year-old woman, who was riding a surfboard, and the 56-year-old man, who was riding a surf mat, collided.
Ms Cooper told the Sunday Telegraph the "frightening" incident happened when Mr Thomson dropped in on her (when a surfer starts surfing in front of another surfer already riding a wave).
"I'm not a wilting flower. I was brought up to be a strong person and I will stand up for myself and I always will," she said.
"You get a lot of frustration in the surf and it is becoming a popular sport and getting more crowded, there have to be rules.
"This character, he didn't follow the rules, he dropped in on me. If you don't follow rules it's like driving up the right side of the freeway and saying 'eff you'."
Mr Thomson said he would defend the charge, admitting he had an "altercation" with Ms Cooper but claiming he was not the instigator.
"Did I have an altercation with Jodie, yes, I did, (but) do you think I'd intentionally do that?" he said.
"I was entangled in a leg rope (and) once I removed myself from the entanglement I was free from the situation. I was too injured to continue surfing."
Mr Thomson is the father of Daniel Thomson, who has become world famous for his own innovative Tomo brand surfboard designs and now works in California.
Ms Cooper grew up in Albany in Western Australia and has won numerous international competitions.
She was second in the world on the pro tour in 1985.
She has spoken publicly about facing violence in the surf in the past, including one episode where she was punched in the face by Hawaiian surfer Johnny Boy Gomes.
She also shrugged off a shark attack in 2007 surfing off Golden Beach in which she suffered hand injuries.
Friend and Lennox Head surfer Don Munro said Ms Cooper had put up with aggressive behaviour from male surfers, especially at the point break at Lennox Head.
"She is fit and strong and that's what helped her out on that day," Mr Munro said, adding Ms Cooper always followed proper surf etiquette in the waves.
"We encouraged her to lay charges," Mr Munro said.
At the time of the alleged attack Ms Cooper had been preparing for the upcoming World Masters Championship in The Azores islands.
Police said the 56-year-old man will appear in Ballina Local Court in October.