Tension in the water at overcrowded Ballina surf breaks
IN NO uncertain terms, a new sign erected at Ballina Shire's Boulder Beach is warning visiting surfers to have respect for surf etiquette.
Locals say this winter has been horrendous for crowds, due to a "perfect storm" of factors including less than usual swell, and an unending stream of surf tourists from the north.
Crowds are one thing, but when visitors don't honour the unwritten rules of surfing, it's like salt in the wound.
Veteran local Steve Shearer said the vibe in the water had been "noticeably tense" lately, describing "vanloads" of foreign students from Byron and the Gold Coast flocking to Ballina breaks.
"The big problem that I can see that a lot of these people, (whether they be) Brazillians, Portuguese, Spanish, French, they just have a very different idea of surfing etiquette," he said.
Mr Shearer said their habit was to paddle straight up the inside of the break where they wanted, instead of queing in the line up.
"That causes a great deal of consternation among the surfing fraternity.
"You're basically just walking back and jumping back in front of the queue."
Mr Shearer said he agreed with the sentiment of the signs. Two more identical signs were put up at Lennox Point in recent weeks.
"Normally some sense of order can be restored in the water... but it feels like this winter there has been so much of it a lot of the time it's just turned into chaos."
"All the chat in the water's been about it this winter, there's been a lot of chat about it."
Dan Webber, who surfs regularly along Ballina's beaches, said the crowds had been "absolutely mental" this winter.
"Yesterday was the first time I've ever chosen not to surf because of the crowd."
"There was one time I was out there and there was 30 guys out there and I only knew one face."
Another surfer, who did not wish to be quoted pointed the finger at the recent growth of Lennox Head itelf, saying the area was going through a "transition phase".
"So many people are coming to the area with new estates like Epiq," they said.
"All those people are going to want to use the surf breaks."