Pittwater Life October 2018 Issue

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Surfing Life

Surfing Life

Increasing dark side to

surfing? Say it isn’t so...

If you’re aggressive towards women in the water, get out – there’s no place for you

You may have read of

this: an incident in

late August at Lennox

Head, the fabled NSW North

Coast surf spot. The incident

involved Mark Thomson, a

56-year-old long-term local

surfer, and 48-year-old

Jodie Cooper, a well-known

Australian ex-pro and regular

nominee for the Australian

Surfing Hall of Fame.

It is currently before the

courts, where police will

allege that after a collision

in the surf, Mark Thomson

assaulted Jodie Cooper by

holding her head underwater

three times in succession,

to the point where Cooper

was allegedly forced to feign

unconsciousness in order

to escape. The incident was

allegedly caught on video by

at least one witness.

As I mentioned, it’s before

the courts, and thus beyond

our judgment for the present.

But reports of the incident

did trigger some thought

about a possible dark side

of one of surfing’s greatest

modern features: the rise in

women’s surfing numbers, at

all levels of the sport, from

the pro ranks to daily go-outs

at beaches across our coasts.

What are these women

seeing and feeling of the

primitive masculine behaviour

that once ruled most

Australian surf zones – and

still does, in some cases? Are

they being targeted by older

men brought up in such surf

zones, in a kind of disturbing

surf version of Australia’s

plague of domestic violence?

I’ve begun some research

on these questions, and the

answers to date are not super

encouraging – at least if

you’re one of those innocent

souls who believe surfing is

essentially good for people.

Almost every woman

I’d talked with prior to

publication told me some

version of a minor horror

story, in which they’ve had to

face a furious man trying to

deny them surfing space in a

very gender-focused manner.

Example one: woman

paddles out at a popular

Sydney beach. Just one

other surfer is in the water,

an early-middle-aged man.

After a brief period, the man

begins snarling: “F**king

women don’t belong in the

surf! F**k ’em! F**k ’em!”

The man begins paddling

around, growing more and

more agitated, continuing to

rant, but never making eye

contact with the woman, who

by now is truly frightened.

with Nick Carroll

CONCERN: Women shouldn’t have to be fearful about surfing alone.

Then another man paddles

out. Seeing and hearing what

is going on, he says to the

agitated man, “You’re not

laying a finger on her, mate.”

The agitated man then begins

trying to punch the interloper.

The woman paddles quickly

to the beach, deeply rattled.

Example two: woman

paddles out at a spot on the

north coast where she’d been

surfing regularly for years.

Middle-aged man “drops in”

on her, yells at her and keeps

surfing. She confronts him,

whereupon he turns ultraaggressive:

“I know where

you live,” he tells her, “I know

what kind of car you drive.”

She paddles in immediately,

terrified – this being a woman

who is not easily terrified

(although she has narrowly

escaped being raped at a

nearby beach). “That idea of

the ultimate stoke being to go

surfing alone?” she says. “For

women, that’s a really scary


Incidents of direct violence

are rarer, perhaps because

publicly hitting or attacking a

woman still carries a serious

42 OCTOBER 2018

The Local Voice Since 1991

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