Surf school fight to preserve South Coast 'diamond': Bowen

Dean Bowen.
Dean Bowen.

Opposition to a surf school operating on the northern end of Seven Mile Beach over summer is about stopping commercialisation of a public space.

That's according to 28-year-old professional surfer and third-generation Gerroa local Dean Bowen.

"That little area is a diamond on the South Coast, and it's always been a community area," he said.

"And lots of people want to teach their own kids to surf there for free, they don't want to see it as a commercial space."

He said the community supported surf schools operating further down the beach, and using the northern end during the quiet winter period.

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But during summer, when the grassed area, car park and cafe drew tourists and locals alike to the rivermouth, he believes adding a surf school of "up to 40 kids" was a recipe for disaster.

"We're proud of our volunteer organisations, like the boardriders, nippers and fishing club," he said.

"Community groups are the heart and soul of our town. They do a great job of teaching our kids to swim and surf, and often use that part of the beach over summer.

"In some instances there are three generations of local families working together to teach our kids to surf."

He said a time-share arrangement proposed by the council, but opposed by Gerringong Surf School owner Rusty Moran where surf schools would be able to use the northern end of the beach in winter, was fair.

"We want it to work, we want kids to learn to surf," he said.

"Other surf schools have taught young kids down the beach. The river mouth can be overcrowded in summer, down the beach you can get a peak to yourself.

"The [surf life saving] flags are usually set up down the beach, and that's the safest place to swim

"The only time it would be lots bigger down the beach is on an east swell, which is relatively rare."