In terms of valuing the coast, he discusses the medicinal, therapeutic, and spiritual aspects of beaches, referring to them as a place of reflection. He also reflects on the beach as a place of love, romance, and emotive experiences, often referring to the 1981 Australian surfing movie Puberty Blues – and the accessibility of beaches to all walks of life.
He talks about the changes in perceptions and cultures related to the beach. For example, a ‘surfer’ includes anyone who engages in the surf zone, not just those with surfboards. He discusses the beginning of the surf club movement in the 1900s and how surfing was popularised by America in the 1950s; the changing culture and perception of surfers as irresponsible types to political advocates – now active in Surf Councils and National Surf Reserves. He also describes the role of National Surf Reserves in conservation and preservation, and refers to Crescent Head and the Dunghutti Aboriginal peoples.
While the interviewee agrees with no-take zones, the idea or need for fishing licences offend him. He talks about different types of fisherman and the need for governments to be aware of the different user groups, communicating and educating accordingly.
He also discusses communities and their strong sense of ownership over their beaches and subsequent management. He thinks that the government’s biggest challenge is in their approach to community liaison and stakeholder engagement. When governments interfere it impacts peoples’ spiritual and social connections, and their experiences become diminished. He worries about community capacity to change the way governments act towards them.
He has a deep understanding of subcultures and discusses the differences between surf lifesavers ('clubbies') and surfers ('hard core'). He often refers to the ‘bromance’ that exists in male surf culture – a connectedness between males and a way for blokes to find a space away from other things in their lives. Reflecting on his work with Suicide Prevention Australia and Australian Men’s Shed Association (mental health initiatives), he talks about male culture in general, the way that men connect and bond through activities, and the power for these activities to cross cultural boundaries. He also makes a clear distinction between surfer and fisherman communities, noting that when the surf is bad a surfer will go home rather than participate in another beach activity. Similarly, a fisherman will do the same.
He recognises the balance between economic stimulus and protection of headlands, and having worked as a federal government advisor, environmental advocate, and lobbyist, feels frustrated and ‘burned out’ when it comes to ever-changing government agendas at the expense of the environment (e.g. coal export terminals in the Great Barrier Reef).
Finally, when asked about the allowance of fishing off beaches and headlands in sanctuary zones he comments about the waste he has personally observed on commercial fishing boats and trawlers.