Surf meeting shows community divided

  • Dec. 2, 2010 8:00 a.m.

Dubbed as a meeting between friends in the surf community, about 20 people attended a Surfing Decompression Session on Saturday night on Tow Hill Road. Local surfer Peter Reynolds said the intention of the gathering at the Trout House (Nov. 27, at 8 pm) was to get people talking to each other and not behind each other’s backs. The main objective he said was to let the surfing community voice opinions about off-island promotion of a pastime they feel passionate about, especially related to the recent Surfing Expression Session held from Nov. 12-14. He noted that the meeting was not meant to be public, but for the close knit community. “It was not for public discourse,” he said when the Observer called, but he also said he wanted to clear the air. The evening was moderated by someone with facilitation experience, Mr. Reynolds said, and that helped move things along. It started with a half hour where people were asked for their feelings about surfing on North Beach and then another half hour where they were asked to come up with a proposal – a positive push for the future. The only proposal that came up, he said, was there be no more off-island promotion of surfing. There was no consensus on this though, because it became too complicated to articulate what off-island promotion is. Regional magazine, Northword, was deemed okay, but no other clear definition was made. Mostly, he said, people who have this opinion are against “commodified promotion” of the sport. By this he means promoting the sport in large media sources and “promoting it for the sake of promotion.” “Some people think surfing is something we should just do and not talk about,” he said. North Beach Surf Shop owner Mike McQuade attended the meeting and said it was too bad more stakeholders weren’t involved in the discussion. “It was very one-sided,” he said. “I was there to be told. I was not there to be listened to.” He said he was told point blank not to promote surfing off-island again, but he agreed there was no consensus on this among all the others at the meeting. “I felt like I was being told by people that don’t support my business how to run my business,” he said. “I believe this faction is perpetuating localism and are deterring tourism. I disagree with both of these.” For the record, he said, he doesn’t promote his business off island, but his Surfing Expression event got a lot of media attention thanks to Northern BC Tourism. “I feel really fortunate to be here on Haida Gwaii. This is Haida land and I’ve had a lot of support from them.” He says people view surfing as a non-extractive healthy way to bring people to the islands. Mr. Reynolds is concerned that the perception is that some surfers are a group of negative people who don’t want others to surf. “We want everyone to surf,” he said. But he, for one, doesn’t want hot shot, aggressive people coming from all over. He says localism in the water and negative vibes come when the waves get crowded, especially with rookies. “We equate promotion of surf with that development,” he said. “The community has been close knit and friendly and welcoming of people. That’s the way it should stay,” he said. The meeting was promoted on the QCI Recreation Facebook site, but Julia Brobbel said she didn’t organize it, or realize it wasn’t meant for the public. She said she supports the recreation opportunities offered by Operations Oceans, a not for profit group that offers youth really cheap surf lessons and the Surfing Expression Session put on by the North Beach Surf Shop. “With no pool, this is our bridge to have kids doing something in the water,” she says. She said the opportunities both these groups offer is vital right now, and she wants to maintain good relationships with all, but for her the results of the meeting were inconclusive. “If you want to voice an opinion, get organized and form a group to voice your sentiments,” she said. For her, recreation is the most important piece, but she’d like to see more stakeholders involved in the conversation.