PWCs and the new normal on the Gold Coast
Whether you saw it live or watched through the surf cameras, you may have noticed a change in the crowd at Kirra from the first day of Cyclone Oma to the last.
From around twenty on Thursday and Friday to a bare few on the weekend, and the reason? The MSQ - Maritime Safety Queensland.
Following on from a burst in activity late last season, the MSQ got on the front foot for the first real swell of this season. They carried out surveillance at Kirra and also at Currumbin, with an MSQ spokesperson observing at Kirra there was “clear frustration of paddle surfers as tow surfers were dropped onto the shoulder of waves paddle surfers were on, and very close calls - within three metres - between PWCs and paddle surfers.”
The spokesperson also noted a “distinct lack of sweep at the time of the surveillance”.
With that they swooped, and over the course of the day issued 30 marine infringements and many more warnings. Offences recorded include PWC being operated within 60 metres of paddle surfers at speeds greater than six knots, tow surfing without an observer, operating at speeds greater than six knots within 200 metres from paddle surfers, no required rescue board, and passengers onboard the PWCs not wearing a lifejacket.
The MSQ are aware of the ‘nanny state’ backlash but consider this the best outcome. If a serious accident were to happen, and there’s been plenty of close calls, the reaction will be far swifter and more wide-ranging.
Besides, as the spokesperson said, “every PWC rider has sat for a test, they know what the rules are and aren’t. When we speak to them they know they’re breaking the law.”
“When a [car] driver speeds among pedestrians do people think that’s acceptable?” If there are no paddle surfers out then the rules change accordingly.
As the spokesperson told Swellnet, the MSQ is sending a message to all PWC users on the Gold Coast: This is the new normal. If you break the law, you’ll get caught.
“We watch the forecasts pretty closely now. We know in advance what days the skis will be out and we make up the rosters to get out there.”