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Randwick Council Stands Up For Paddle Boarding

By Stephen Sheldon on April 12, 2013 in News

Photo: Stan Dup

Photo: Stan Dup

At its February meeting, Randwick City Council resolved to permit stand up paddle boarding classes at Coogee Beach and Gordon’s Bay.

This marks a departure for the council, which has a ban on commercial operations at its beaches. Some people believe it’s a move that could open Randwick’s beaches to other commercial operators.

Councillor Kiel Smith is the main proponent for the change. He told The Beast he is keen to encourage new recreational options for individuals and commercially run groups.

“Until now, it’s been impossible for someone to lodge an application [to run a paddle boarding business at the beach],” Cr Smith told The Beast. “Now they can.”

Cr Smith said any application to run paddle boarding classes would still need to meet Council’s tendering processes and be approved by the lifeguards.

“The licence would, I imagine, contain the hours and days of operation, and the number of participants. It may also involve a plan of management to ensure the activity doesn’t impact on people in terms of noise, parking and user conflicts.”

Cr Smith said he sees the paddle boarding classes as a low-impact operation, with no new facilities or buildings, small class sizes, and no classes during peak times.

He told The Beast he was motivated to act following a request by Charlotte Piho, who runs paddle boarding classes with Workout on Water at Rose Bay and is keen to expand to the Eastern Beaches.

Ms Piho said she is drawn to Coogee Beach and Gordon’s Bay.

“It’s a really beautiful area. I love the open ocean. And the great thing is it’s more challenging than boarding on the harbour because it’s more bumpy,” she said.

Ms Piho said she places a very strong emphasis on the safety of all water users.

“If we do set up at Coogee or Gordon’s Bay, we’d put a huge emphasis on safety. Our main thing would be to not conflict with the public. If the weather conditions are not suitable, if it’s too windy or the swell is too big, we would not go out,” she said.

Ms Piho’s associate, Sean Carroll, cut his teeth surfing renowned breaks Harries and the Bommie in Gordon’s Bay, and was a Randwick City lifeguard for ten years, so he knows the area well.

Mr Carroll said he can envisage a paddle boarding circuit from the northern end of Coogee Beach and around Wedding Cake Island.

Long-time Greens councillor Murray Matson, who voted against the proposal, said he has concerns.

“I voted against it because there seemed to be no prior consultation with the local community – you should always consult before you contemplate changes to an established community,” Cr Matson told The Beast.

“Coogee Beach is a high-volume area, and caters for people from all over Sydney as well as the local community. People are very concerned about the water, and most residents are wary about increased commercialisation, and wary about Council motions that come out of the blue that could affect their use of public space,” he said.

One such local is Alison Feld, who hits the ocean most days of the week.

“I’m all in favour of people being active,” Ms Feld said. “But I’m worried about user conflicts and the safety of swimmers and snorkellers, particularly if the area becomes popular for paddle boarding. Watching out for paddle boarders as you swim across the bay would not be very relaxing.”

She is also concerned that the paddle boarding proposal will set a precedent.

“I’m worried it will leave the door open for other operators who want to rent out the beach to come along and say, ‘What about me?’”
“Council has kept the ban on commercial operations but is now going to allow commercial paddle boarding classes – it’s a bit like saying you’re just a ‘little bit pregnant’,” she said.