Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Mount part of surf rage study by PhD student

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Local surfers say surf rage is real. PHOTO/GETTY
Local surfers say surf rage is real. PHOTO/GETTY

The surf at Mount Maunganui will be used as a location to explore surf rage - with locals saying it is real.

Massey University PhD student Jahn Gavala said surf rage, with surfers protecting their local surf and leading to intimidation and physical assault, was prevalent across New Zealand.

People have ownership of, or mark certain spaces in the surf zones. They form packs of surfers. They use verbal intimidation, physical intimidation and the raging is being physically beaten up - boards broken, cars broken.
Jahn Gavala

"People have ownership of, or mark certain spaces in the surf zones. They form packs of surfers. They use verbal intimidation, physical intimidation and the raging is being physically beaten up - boards broken, cars broken."

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Psychologist investigates the ugly side of surfing

Mr Gavala planned to observe surfers at six top surf breaks including Mount Maunganui over summer.

The 42-year-old, who has just returned from two-years' leave to surf in Indonesia, would be the first psychologist in New Zealand to look into surf rage. The research would make up part of his PhD in psychology.

"There's an idea of surfers being really mellow and relaxed basically, and in fact some surfers are pretty amped and not that chilled out."

Mr Gavala, who has been surfing for 30 years, said he wanted to talk to those on the giving or receiving end of surf rage, administer psychometric tests to measure aggression, depression and stress, as well as run a focus group with a bunch of surfers.

Local surfer Samuel Bowen said he had seen surf rage at the Mount.

"Usually in the summer months when the crowds come in, mostly on days when the surf is really good and there is a hundred holidaymakers that don't know what they are doing with big boards that become missiles.

"It's all about respect for others and the surf, and knowing the golden rules before you paddle out and potentially kill someone with a rented stand-up paddleboard."

Mr Bowen said he had travelled around New Zealand to surf.

"It's not so much physical aggression, sure there is a lot of pushing people off their boards and a bit of yelling. It happens but it's nothing like Hawaii.

"A lot of people don't understand that the person closest to the breaking energy of the wave has right of way, just like driving, even if it's not a legal thing. If they see you and they drop in then you are fair game ."

Another Mount surfer Jay Daly said she stayed away from crowded areas in the water to avoid the aggression.

"It definitely is out there. Sometimes it will be a look or someone yelling out to you in the water.

"There is only a certain amount of waves out there. Say there was only four waves every five minutes and if there are 50-odd people in the water wanting to catch one of those waves, then your chances are slim.

"In Raglan you can sit out in the water for an hour and not catch anything."

Papamoa surfer TA Sayers said the issue needed to be put into context.

"Surfing has grown massively in the last 30 years, so more bodies in the water, many of whom have not grown up with the respect for the ocean and how we should share waves.

"I do think genuinely everyone wants everyone to have a good time. It's just hard when the same character from out of town keeps dropping in and it spins a local out."

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