SAFETY FIRST: Minnie Water-Wooli Open Women's surfboat crew crash through the waves at Woolgoolga. Plans are in place to introduce safety helmets for surf boat rowers.
SAFETY FIRST: Minnie Water-Wooli Open Women's surfboat crew crash through the waves at Woolgoolga. Plans are in place to introduce safety helmets for surf boat rowers. Leigh Jensen

Introduction of safety helmets on surf boats delayed for now

SURF Life Saving Australia has successfully delayed the introduction of compulsory safety helmets for surf boat races.

Initially earmarked to be phased in for craft competitors from January 1, an outcry from surf boat rowers prompted a decision to conduct more suitability testing.

Instead, mandatory helmets are not likely to be introduced until October, and only in the case of metre-plus waves.

Australian Surf Rowers League president Bert Hunt said better safety measures could be developed if the decisions were not rushed.

"It's a win for commonsense," he said.

"We're not against the introduction of helmets but there were things that hadn't been thought through properly. Now we have the time to get it right."

A contingent of Yamba Surf Life Saving Club members attended the Byron Bay Surf Carnival on the weekend, including the surf boat rowers having their first hitout ahead of the North Coast Boat Series.

Yamba SLSC publicity officer Mike Harvey said increased safety measures were inevitable and consistent with other aspects of society.

"People ride a motorbike or a bull knowing that accidents can happen," Harvey said.

"It's important to be aware of the risks and take whatever safety precautions are necessary to minimise risk.

"It will be quite an impost on members but I think ultimately it will more than likely go through."

Boat crews have reportedly resisted the use of helmets due to factors such as stifled hearing, reduced visibility and too much buoyancy.

Hunt said change to the sport was often met with resistance, but hoped crews would embrace any change as positive.

"With anything that is new comes a reluctance to embrace it," he said.

"Years ago it was seatbelts in cars or helmets on bikes and now that's the norm.

"It's a positive step that is needed in the sport."

The reversal comes as the Queensland Coroner prepares for an inquest into the death of Maroochydore teenager Matthew Barclay at the 2012 Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships on the Gold Coast.

A pre-inquest conference has been scheduled for tomorrow.



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