Surfers in the North Western Australian surf region of Gnaraloo are worried. With the 2008 Rip Curl Search WCT event planned for an area in Western Australia, a vocal group of surfers and community activists have started a global petition in hopes of dissuading the organizers.

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The petition asserts that the Rip Curl Search event will “draw huge crowds” and “end the cruisy, laidback desert vibe” as well as impacting the environment. The petition asks, among other things, “where will all the poo, piss, and rubbish go?”. Although it is clear that the petition creators do not want a WCT event at Gnaraloo, the petiton does not clearly state any goals or objectives.

The petition initiators, a group calling themselves the NW Surfers Alliance (formerly NW Boardriders Club), are hoping to attain a goal of 5000 signatures by Saturday Dec. 15. As of this writing (Saturday Dec 15, Sunday the 16th in Australia) they have attained 2390 signatures.

When asked for comment, Rip Curl’s Neil Ridgeway said via email, “Rip Curl is working through an Environmental Impact Assessment on the region with the Station owner and WA government. To date Northwest Surfers Alliance have refused both written and verbal requests for a meeting with Rip Curl so we can hear their issues. We hope that they will agree to a meeting in the near future and we can understand them better before we make a final decision. They sound like reasonable blokes on the telephone.

We have applied to run the event through all the correct channels and have full government support. We will wait for the results of the EIA which will tell us how to run the event. If the net result of that study is that the event cannot be run sustainably with no harm to the region and with no lasting legacy then we will not come. Simple.

To this point this has not been illustrated with any fact or anything other than gut reaction by most concerned people and that is completely understandable because they are surfers who are passionate about the area and the waves. The EIA is being done on ground and by an environmental scientist who is familiar with the area and lives in the region. It will provide the fact. We intend to listen to as many people as possible along the way.”

ASP’s Brodie Carr did say that the ASP always has contingencies planned for ASP events and The Search event is no different.

According to a Perth newspaper, Gnaraloo station owner Paul Richardson said, “Nothing had (yet) been agreed (upon).”

“I’m having an environmental impact assessment carried out. Nothing will move until I receive that,” Richardson told Australia’s Sunday Times newspaper. “It will take time and I want this done properly. There will be community input. People want their say and they are 100 per cent right to want it.”

“People have to remember that this is my home and my living,” Richardson continued. “I’m here for the long haul. There will be benefits if the event went ahead, but I’m sure the assessment will come up with negatives as well and we will have to address them.”

The ASP’s Brodie Carr expressed concern that the petition did not allow for all sides to be heard. “Unfortunately the petition does not allow the ASP or Rip Curl the forum to advise people of what action we are taking to look after Gnarloo,” Said Carr. “The environmental impact study we are planning will actually be a great legacy for Gnarloo and the community. We will return the place better than we found it or we won’t go.”

About 150 surfers and support staff and hundreds of supporters, vehicles and equipment are expected at the two-week championships on the Gnaraloo sheep station that has 60km of coastline, less than half with public access, according to the Sunday Times news report