The risk of our beaches being closed due to crowded surf spots and beach car parks in this time of COVID 19 is real. Swimming Women’s Charlotte O’Beirne, representatives of local surfing groups, and Margaret River Shire President, Ian Earl met virtually to discuss potential solutions to hopefully avoid such a situation occurring.
As creatures of habit we seek comfort in the familiar. Standing watching the ocean is such a part of a pre surf or swim routine, socialising congregated in the car park brings much of the mental health benefit we gain from the exercise itself. Now however it’s time to swim alone or with just one other.
At last nights meeting we agreed, as user groups to the following and we are asking you to share this with your friends and family, ask them to change behaviour if needs be. Together we can show, as locals, we are doing what we can to keep our beaches open.
Locals step up to keep our beaches open
Key representatives of local surfing organisations, coastal businesses and swimming networks met with Shire President Ian Earl last night. They discussed concerns with last weekend’s beach crowding issue and agreed on community measures that could be adopted to enable beaches to safely remain open for use in the current COVID19 environment.
Several problems were highlighted that contributed to crowds, including an unusually high and very recent influx of travelling backpackers. Cr Earl commented that “Rangers have been working with Police to tell the free campers to move on. Advice has been that they need to look to go home while they still can. We have also been sending them to places where they can camp properly and we’ll continue to work on that.”
An influx of Perth visitors was also cited for particularly large weekend crowds, however it was felt that the regional border closures would minimise this issue in the future.
At a local level, the representatives were incredibly keen to do what they could to strongly encourage their members and networks to strictly abide by Shire guidelines. The very real risk of beach closures was enough to incite some solid consensus and commitment.
Dave Macaulay, current Masters Surfing World Champion and father of WSL competitor Bronte, commented that “the thought of not being able to go surfing was scary.”
Charlie O’Beirne, head of Swimming Women who has around 500 members, said “there’s a lot of swimmers who are older, but that access to movement in the ocean is absolutely critical to their mental and physical health.”
The groups agreed to strongly communicate and follow the Shire guidelines, including:
- Don’t congregate in the carpark or on the beach.
- Avoid crowded breaks and car parks.
- Spread out in the line up
- Make it snappy. Surf/Swim then leave.
- Obey social distancing rules.
Noting that Sydney had only shut Manly and Bondi beaches, Margaret River Boardriders President Jerome Forrest commented “That’s where us locals have to lead the way and show people what to do. We just need to get in and get out of there, there’s no hanging around the beaches.”
The groups are firmly communicating these guidelines to their networks, and the Shire is posting signs to remind beach goers of these guidelines today.
Jane Seman, President of Cowaramup Bay Boardriders, commented that “Beach closures would be absolutely devasting for the local community. So many people rely on it for their physical health and mental wellbeing, so it’s even more important in times when our health needs to be at its peak.”
“Whether we’re visitors or local residents, let’s all do the right thing and help to keep our beaches open.”
For more information phone Jane Seman
0408 909 643 / firstname.lastname@example.org
3rd April 2020