Byron Bay is considering penalties for “hipster” surfers who get rid of leg ropes

“But I don’t know of any surfer who can ride a whole wave without losing his board. It’s just a selfish act [to not wear a leg rope] in a place so crowded

“I don’t want to be the guy who sadly decides not to wear a leg rope and ends up hurting a kid. There are a lot of people out there who believe violence will be the answer.”

Mat Cassidy is a former pro surfer and says it's selfish not to wear a leg rope.

Mat Cassidy is a former pro surfer and says it’s selfish not to wear a leg rope.

Councilwoman Cate Coorey said she was confident her colleagues would support her motion tomorrow to introduce a leg roping rule, with violations punishable by a $1,100 fine. She’s also calling for a community awareness campaign on how to surf safely, saying people expect Byron to take the lead on the issue.

“If [my sons] were younger I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to dive in front of them, especially at the pass to protect them from a runaway board or surfer.

“Knowing you could get a fine makes people think twice,” she said. “You sometimes need a stick with the carrot.”

But council officials say breaches of the rule are difficult to prove. They say it would cost at least $20,800 to erect new signs at the county’s more than 26 beach entrances and $2,080 a year to maintain them.

Surfers compete with longboards in Manly in 1964.

Surfers compete with longboards in Manly in 1964.Credit: RL Steward

Longboard rider and former Byron resident Ron Hughes, who has been surfing since the 1960s, said leg ropes didn’t really impede use of the board and most riders used them.

“Sometimes it gets stuck between your toes, which can be a bit uncomfortable, but normally you wouldn’t realize you were wearing a leg rope.

“The complaint from… the true traditionalists is that’s how leg-roping started and how it’s supposed to be done.


“The old Mals made before 1966/67 are a bit like early cars with no seat belts – there is no way to attach leg ropes to them. You could put a plug on it, but then it’s not an authentic pre-1968 surfboard anymore.”

He said the growing popularity of surfing is making it increasingly dangerous to go ropeless.

“You have to be pretty good at riding without a leg rope in today’s surf. It used to not matter that much because it was just you and one or two others out on the water.

“I’m 71 years old, so I don’t feel like swimming 300 meters to get my board either.”

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Justin Scaccy

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