OPINION: Plenty of room to learn to surf at the beach

Seven Mile Beach is so named for a very good reason – it’s a beautiful, long stretch of sand. So long, in fact, it played an important role in aviation history when on January 11, 1933, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith took off from Gerroa for the first trans-Tasman flight to New Zealand.

The beach also played host to motor racing, with cars and motorbikes screaming along the hard, compacted sand when the king tides were at their ebb.

Those noisy pursuits have long been abandoned and the beach, particularly the northern end which tucks behind the headland at Gerroa, is now a haven for people learning to surf. 

Protected from the nor’easter in summer, with a gentle sand profile, it turns on small, manageable waves that are perfect for beginners and their instructors. But things have not been so gentle lately, with a surf school turf war erupting over the licensing arrangements with Kiama Council. 

The tussle is between a Sydney-based surf school which has been granted sole permission by council to operate a surf school and a local bloke who wants to operate another school on the same stretch of sand. 

The local operator has the backing of Cr Matt Brown, whose involvement in surf lifesaving is well known.

It might seem a little superficial but from the perspective of anyone driving south past Gerroa, there would appear to be plenty of room for more than one surf school.

And certainly from the perspective of the local economy, it seems reasonable to untangle any red tape preventing someone from setting up shop on this stretch of sand.

There is every reason to encourage both schools to operate. By bringing busloads of backpackers down to our beautiful part of the world, Surf Camp Australia helps get the word out about the delights of our region. This is good for business. 

Rusty Moran’s operation can complement that by offering tuition to local kids in a safe environment.

His only options at present are Werri and Berry Beach in the Shoalhaven, which can both be too challenging for people learning to surf. The beach below Gerroa is an ideal place to learn to surf in the summer months.

There is a matter of principle involved as well. Monopolies are never ideal and surf schools are no exception. We don’t see how Rusty’s proposal can jeopardise Surf Camp Australia’s operation, seeing it draws most of its clientele from Sydney.