Surf club chief slams vandals

Awesome foursome: Coffs Harbour’s Vez Freeman, Rachael Smyth, Belinda Leeson and Kate McCollough get set for action at the Craft Carnival.
Awesome foursome: Coffs Harbour’s Vez Freeman, Rachael Smyth, Belinda Leeson and Kate McCollough get set for action at the Craft Carnival.

THE senseless destruction of property throughout Park Beach and The Jetty on Saturday night didn't totally sour the success of Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club's iconic Craft Carnival but it created plenty of angst.

In an orgy of mayhem on Saturday night, youths went on a rampage and showed why this area of the city has become so notorious after dark and has earned the title of ‘the Badlands.'

Club president Terry Maher expressed his disgust at the mindless destruction of property but said many of the visiting clubs were determined not to let it ruin their high regard for the event.

“You don't like to talk about these things but there was plenty of discussion among members whether this would put clubs off visiting Coffs in the future,” Maher said.

“However we were heartened when the Alexandra Park crew, who suffered a lot of damage, told us they'd be back next year and what happened was beyond our control.

“While their surf club-owned bus was safely back at their motel a Budget rental vehicle was trashed and you have to wonder what prompted these idiots to do what they did.”

Vandalism aside, the action on the water reached new heights with a major boost in competitor numbers.

After worries in recent years that the event had peaked with rival carnivals reducing numbers, this year's event attracted 25 more boat crews than last year's carnival.

“Conditions were a bit trying on Saturday but improved a lot for the final day and everybody said how happy they were,” Maher said.

“We held round robins so everybody got a real good go and made sure the best were taking part at the end.

“Those extra numbers meant we had fun getting everybody on to the water but it all came together eventually.”

Despite Park Beach being narrowed this year, heats were conducted on two parts of the shore before finalists came to the main arena in front of the surf clubhouse to chase supremacy.

Rough surf caused a number of near-calamities with a Woolgoolga boat coming to grief and veteran crew member Trevor Clark suffering rib injuries when the boat tipped on top of him.

With no sign of Saturday's sea abating, Maher said some crews donned crash helmets for protection.

“The head gear is optional but for some of the guys it's a good thing to have them on when it gets hairy,” he said.

“A lot of the girls like to wear them and they give protection when the pile-ups happen.

“Nobody's said anything about making them mandatory and I'm not sure personally whether I like them or not but to each his own and they have their place.”

Fortunately the Pacific Ocean calmed down for the main day and everything went off like clockwork.

Queensland clubs reigned supreme in both open boat finals but North Coast Branch pride was saved when Woolgoolga made it through to the under-19 winners' podium.

“We were really pleased about how the carnival went, the overnight dramas excepted,” Maher said.

“It was great fun and I think we're going ahead again.”