Bombs or sharks? Pro surfers can take their pick

An Indonesia affairs expert based in Perth says the World Surf League’s decision to relocate the Margaret River Pro to Bali shouldn’t be affected by recent terrorist activity in the region.

It was announced last week the competition would resume in Uluwatu in June after two shark attacks in Gracetown forced its abandonment last month.

More than 30 people have been killed in attacks in Indonesia since Sunday including 17 terrorists, but Indonesia Institute chairman Ross Taylor declared the popular island “as safe as it can be”.

“The security and policing in Bali has improved significantly,” Mr Taylor said.

“Certainly, since the 2002 bombings, the Australian Federal police and the Indonesian police have worked in a very, very well-defined, excellent partnership to use intelligence information to find terrorist cells and thwart quite a number of terrorist attacks.

“There are 5.1 million foreign tourists going there a year, of which 1.1 million are Australian so there’s certainly a vested interest in both countries keeping their visitors as safe as possible.

“The authorities are doing everything they can keep people safe but just like Paris, Perth (and) Jakarta, it can’t be completely safe – it’s about as safe as it possibly can be.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recently echoed Mr Taylor’s sentiments, stating she would follow through with travel plans to Bali if she had them.

The Smartraveller website – a government publication issuing travel advice – urges Australians to exercise caution when visiting the region but doesn’t discourage travel to Indonesia altogether.

WSL didn’t respond when asked if the event would go ahead, while Surfing WA declined to comment.

This year’s first incarnation of the Margaret River Pro was cancelled after two men were bitten at separate beaches near Gracetown, approximately six kilometres from the event site at Main Break.

Both received treatment in hospital.

In a letter sent to competing athletes, WSL chief executive Sophie Goldschmidt declared the surfers’ safety a priority that “cannot be compromised”.

“The WSL puts the highest premium on safety,” she wrote.

“This cannot be just talk and it cannot be compromised. Surfing is a sport that carries various forms of risk, and is unique in that wild animals inhabit our performance environment.

“Current circumstances are very unusual and troubling, and we have decided the elevated risk during this season’s Margaret River Pro has crossed the threshold for what is acceptable.

“Margaret River is a special venue, with incredible partners. It has produced many memorable moments over the years, and at the moment we have no plans not to return in the future.”