THE business community has supported Surf Life Saving Australia’s (SLSA) decision to move its annual surf contest away from Kurrawa Beach.
The Surfers Paradise Broadbeach Chamber of Commerce (SPBCC) describes the 2013 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships’ relocation as a ‘very sad’ outcome.
“Kurrawa Beach has such good facilities, car parking and benefit to the area, but officials must put safety first,” says SPBCC president Lucy Cole.
“We cannot afford to have families suffer lost loved ones. It is our duty of care to competitors.”
The event’s repositioning responds to public pleas to move it to a safer location after 14-year-old Matthew Barclay died off Kurrawa Beach while participating in an under-15 board race on March 28. Other victims include 19-year-old Saxon Bird who collided with a surf ski two years ago and 15-year-old Robert Gatenby who drowned in 1996.
“We are taking this action to relocate the 2013 Australian Championships from Kurrawa out of respect for Robert Gatenby, Saxon Bird and Matthew Barclay and their families,” says SLSA CEO Brett Williamson.
“The emotional wellbeing of our members, athletes, officials, volunteers and event staff who have all been greatly affected by these tragic accidents is also vital.”
Broadbeach Alliance CEO Jan McCormick recognises there were safety concerns, but does not believe they will tarnish the beach’s long-term reputation.
“I do not believe the tragedy will make people think it is unsafe to surf (at Kurrawa). There are people at Kurrawa Beach swimming every day and all Gold Coast beaches are wonderful,” she says.
“It is very sad and tragic for families, organisers and everyone involved with any death.”
Surf officials are considering options for next year including the Kirra-North Kirra stretch, with a decision expected to be made by June 2012.
Kirra Surf Live Saving Club suggests it would be happy to host the championships.
“It has been great for Kirra and the southern end of the Coast. It would be great for the Gold Coast if it continues to be held here,” says deputy president Gaven Gear.
Kurrawa Surf Life Saving Club and several nearby hotels declined to comment, but one hotel manager claiming to be a friend of Gatenby confirmed the event’s absence will be felt by businesses.
Williamson expects the new venue to be announced in coming months after substitute locations are considered and further talks with EQ and GCCC have ended.
“SLSA will also be fast tracking the ‘top to bottom’ review of the event, which was initiated last year to review the size, duration, types of events, age groups and welfare issues,” he says.
"All members will be given the opportunity to contribute via online surveys and regional and state forums. These forums will also enable SLSA to update our membership on decisions pertaining to the conduct of the 2012 championships and we welcome feedback from our clubs and members right around Australia.”
Cole hopes the event will not be shifted away from the Coast.
“We have some of the best beaches … surfing is what southeast Queensland is all about,” she says.