National Surfing Reserves

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On 2 December, 2017, there was a dedication ceremony to constitute Bondi as a National Surfing Reserve (NSR). As the headline in the Wentworth Courier stated: “It’s official: Bondi is iconic”. The article went on to say the ceremony will justify this status as Australia’s most visited beach. Bondi is the 20th Australian beach to be declared a surfing reserve recognising the pioneering role it has played in the development of surfing in our country.

Brad Farmer and Andy Short founded the NSR concept in 2004. It is a mechanism to formally acknowledge great surfing locations together with local beach surfing history and the community’s association with the beach and surf. In his address at the ceremony, Andy highlighted three criteria required to become an NSR: good quality consistent surf; being a place considered sacred by surfers; and there is a long-term usage of the beach and surf by the local and broader community. On its website (, it is stated that a NSR is an iconic place of intrinsic environmental, heritage, sporting and cultural value to the nation embracing all peoples. Bondi surely qualifies. The website lists all current NSRs including Maroubra, Angourie, Margaret River, Noosa and Burleigh Heads. These are places cherished the world over by surfers.

It requires a local group to nominate and push for inclusion on the list of NSRs. Bondi was no exception. John Sullivan and his team worked on the application for 18 months receiving strong support from Waverley Council and state agencies, especially Crown Lands. An area of the bay including the surf zone to high water mark was specially gazetted for the purpose of being a NSR. It was appropriate that the Minister for Lands, Paul Toole, was present and spoke eloquently at the dedication. The Mayor, John Wakefield, John Sullivan and Andy all spoke about the role of Bondi in the history of beach use in Australia, the role of surf clubs, the Bondi Icebergs, the board riding clubs, the teaching of surfing, the importance of tourism, and the use of Bondi for filming including TV shows such as Bondi Rescue. The local State member, Gabrielle Upton MP, who unfortunately could not be present at the ceremony, wrote in the booklet accompanying the dedication, that the NSR status is an important step for this world class beach following from its National Heritage List status in 2008. The booklet contained stories of Bondi and its history.

Andy makes the point that Bondi can claim to be both the birthplace and cultural capital of Australian surfing. Many have written on the significance of surfing in Australian culture. All walks of life have over many decades participated in this recreational activity. It continues to provide that regime of fitness for all ages and inspires many to engage in a lifestyle that is the envy of many other nations. Progressively through government actions such as providing heritage status and gazettal of waters, and by including the concept of surf zone in provisions in the new Coastal Management Act, 2016, steps are being taken to ensure protection of values that the public place on surfing and beach use. This Dedication Ceremony was a great way to continue to recognise our beach-surf heritage. Many thanks to Brad and Andy for establishing NSRs.


Bruce Thom


Words by Prof Bruce Thom. Please respect the author’s thoughts and reference appropriately: (c) ACS, 2017, posted 20 December 2017, for correspondence about this blog post please email