Learner risking lives: surfing chief
Surf photographer Nick Woolacott and Surfing WA CEO Mark Lane. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

The head of WA's main surfing body says first-time surfers are increasingly risking their lives in the wild winter swell off Perth.

Surfing WA chief executive Mark Lane has warned that beginners attracted to the "cool" image of the sport were often getting into trouble after attempting to ride waves alongside experienced surfers.

The issue was raised by surf photographer Nick Woolacott, who last week photographed a first-time surfer struggling in big waves off Scarborough beach shortly before the surfer was taken away in an ambulance.

In an Instagram post, Mr Woolacott blasted stores that rented professional-level boards to amateurs when conditions were rough.

The post drew support from many in the WA surfing community.

"The water was moving like Niagara Falls out there that day," he said.

"You ask any experienced surfer and they'll tell you that 85 to 90 per cent of the surfers out there shouldn't even be out there.

A surfer rents a board and catches a wave.... Picture: Nick Woolacott

"They get the $900 board and the $500 wetsuit and think that's it.

"I see it at Scarborough every time I'm there. Deadset, it's getting worse and someone has to say something."

Mr Lane said he was receiving more reports of beginners getting into difficulty in the surf but their behaviour in the water was hard for surf shops to police.

... he soon ends up in trouble... Picture: Nick Woolacott

He said overseas visitors and those who had grown up away from the coast were among those who often underestimated the risks of being in the ocean.

The "perfect storm" was created, he said, when they chose rough conditions to attempt surfing when they had little ocean experience.

... and ends up with suspected spinal injuries. Picture: Nick Woolacott

A spokeswoman for Rip Curl's Scarborough surf store said staff did not rent boards when the conditions were too rough and warnings issued for big swells.

She said staff were often surfers and were also "irritated" by beginners being too brazen in the water during winter.

"I think we do have a certain responsibility but I don't think it's fully our responsibility - it's up to the person hiring the board," the spokeswoman said.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West