Novices beware. To go surfing in Australia, you require not only technical mastery of wave-riding skills but to be conversant with a code of ethics designed to prevent "surf rage".
The code was released yesterday by the Surfrider Foundation Australia (SFA), which has been alarmed by the numbers of surfers coming to blows as they vie for space in an increasingly congested ocean. It asks boarders to be considerate and to avoid the cardinal sin of "dropping in on" a wave.
The surfing community said the sport has grown so popular that there are not enough waves to go round, and surfers face a frustratingly long wait to mount their boards. Locals jealously guard their stretch of beach and are hostile to newcomers, particularly novices.
The foundation has taken legal advice and warned that, unless surfers addressed the problem themselves, they could find police patrolling the waves. Don Osborne, an SFA official, said: "It's very important we address this in a self-regulatory way. If we don't, the authorities will step in and create a legal structure for the surf. We could have police on jet skis, and how bad would that be? It's just not what surfing's about."
The phenomenon of surf rage came to light after Nat Young, a former world champion, was beaten up by another surfer in a dispute over waves. The confrontation happened place in Mr Young's home town of Angourie, in New South Wales.
Posters have been distributed explaining surf etiquette, and plaques to be erected on beaches will outline the rules in several languages. They formalise the hitherto unwritten code that most self-respecting surfers have long observed.
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