Amateur stand-up paddleboarders flout beach etiquette

SOURCE: Canberra Times

Holidaygoers keen to try their luck at the stand-up paddleboarding craze have got on the nerves of surfers and swimmers on NSW South Coast beaches this summer. 

Lifesavers who patrol the Batemans Bay region have observed an influx of amateur participants, dubbed "weekend warriors" by local beach regulars.

Their inexperience in the surf has often meant they flouted the unspoken rules of beach etiquette and put lives in danger.

Total Eco Adventures owner and head coach Shane Wehner said staff at the South Broulee Beach business had noticed a huge surge in interest in the activity in the past two years.

"Most people you'll see at the beach are competent, they've got their own gear, got their own board.

"The ones that worry me are the ones who haven't done it before and they've got no idea what they're doing."

He said the boards could be difficult to manage at the beach, particularly when it was windy or if participants couldn't read tides and currents.

They also had a big fin which easily got caught on sandbars.

"The main one is just not knowing how to handle the big SUP boards through the breaking waves.

"I get people who've never surfed before try it and they just try and paddle in front of people having a surf or having a swim.

"Then if they come off their boards, the boards can go flying, even with the leg rope attached, and easily hit someone. 

"It's quite a dangerous thing to attempt."

Mr Wehner always advised first-timers to start with a lesson on flat water.

Surf Life Saving Far South Coast duty officer Andrew Edmunds said summer always brought plenty of enthusiastic tourists who weren't familiar with waterways and often found themselves in trouble. 

He did not know of any serious safety incidents involving stand-up paddleboarders this summer, but advised amateurs to play it safe. 

"You should only go out as far as you can swim; a lot of people get over confident and that's when they run into strife."

"The etiquette is that you stay out of the flags so you stay away from the swimmers, and the surfers because they'll probably get annoyed."

Mr Edmunds said inexperienced swimmers, surfers, kayakers, and boaters often got caught in rips and outgoing tides. 

Crowded beaches on the far south coast had kept lifesavers busy in recent weeks, but Mr Edmonds said there had not yet been any major incidents or fatalities. 

"The rescues have been down a bit, we've had two or three incidents a day which is down on the last two years."

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