After large sharks descended on the Margaret River contest site in great toothy hordes this past year, the WSL, you may remember, elected to move the event to…somewhere else in Western Oz. They proposed Gnaraloo, perhaps, or Jake's Point in Kalbarri. Powerful reefbreaks in beautiful remote areas, either one would be a good replacement for a wave like Main Break at Margaret River.
Kalbarri locals, however, aren't having it.
For one thing, they aren't exactly thrilled with inviting the whole surfing world into their living room. It's not an issue of sharing really. It's more about protecting their treasured wave from the prying eyes of wanderlust-fueled surfers who may see the wave on a WSL broadcast and decide they can no longer ignore the pull of WA's menu of terrific wine, seafood and heavy reefbreaks.
Maybe more importantly, the place is actually a National Surfing Reserve, a designation, though largely toothless, that's in place specifically to keep the wave from being exploited for commercial reasons, even one not particularly environmentally threatening, like a surf contest.
Having said that, there are environmental concerns with an event at Jake's Point too, namely that hundreds of people and numerous bits of contest scaffolding would have a negative impact on the fragile dune system that overlooks the break.
National Surfing Reserves founder Brad Farmer is now saying the proposal to move Marg's to Jake's Point is, in fact, "dead in the water."
"It would be highly offensive for anyone to challenge that or push the argument any further," Farmer told the West Australian news.
The Kalbarri Boardriders club isn't supporting the idea of a contest at Jake's and has made their objections known. And the National Surfing Reserves rely heavily on input from locals, a factor in Farmer's "dead in the water" comment.
"What it translates to in legislation [as a National Surfing Reserve] — 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," Farmer explains.
Gnaraloo locals have reportedly been less than thrilled with the proposal of a contest at their break too. In both cases, local townspeople are often on board with the idea of a revenue-generating contest in their area, with WSL staffers and surfers and fans, presumably there'd be fans, renting rooms and buying food. Local surfers are sensitive to that, but don't see the exploitation of waves they very much cherish as worth the economic gain.
Remains to be seen how this will shake out, but looks like the WSL may have a bit of a fight on their hands with a hardscrabble West Oz surf community unaccustomed to taking much shit. Stay tuned.