Woman forced to 'go limp' during terrifying surf rage attack
IT WAS an exceptional day in the Lennox Head surf and people had turned out in droves.
But the prime conditions of August 22 last year were sullied when Mark Andrew Thomson (pictured) flouted surf etiquette before unleashing a brutal attack upon a former pro surfer, a court has heard.
on Friday, Thomson, 58, was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm after he grabbed Jodie Cooper by the hair and held her under the water.
Thomson, riding an inflatable surf mat, "dropped in" on the wave Ms Cooper was riding in the busy surf break, the court heard.
Throughout the hearing, the court heard evidence from Ms Cooper and witness Joy Ford, that Thomson cut back towards the surfer in two small arcs, then one larger, more aggressive movement.
Magistrate Karen Stafford said she accepted Ms Cooper's evidence that she ultimately left the wave in a submissive "belly-flop" move, and collided with Thomson's flippers.
Thomson denied this and said he was struck to the back by a sharp force, became tangled in Ms Cooper's leg rope and was being attacked from below.
He told the court Ms Cooper then swung a punch at him, while she said she had struck the water in frustration.
A video of part of the incident played numerous times to the court showed a distinct splash of water.
Thomson claimed Ms Cooper then pursued him, hurling abuse at him, while his victim - who conceded she swore at him - told the court she paddled after him to seek an explanation for his conduct.
Ms Stafford found the video of the incident corroborated Ms Cooper's evidence, as did Ms Ford's testimony.
She found defence witness and Thomson's neighbour, Terry Chandler, was honest but did not disprove the offence.
She also found Thomson had no lawful excuse for his actions.
Critical in Thomson's evidence were his claims the "cutback" moves witnesses described him making toward Ms Cooper were physically impossible on the surf mat he was riding.
That same mat was tendered as evidence on Thursday.
But during his cross-examination, police prosecutor Sergeant Alissia Kennedy played to the court a Youtube video of surf mat riders, including Thomson, doing just that.
"I found the defendant's account lacked credibility," Ms Stafford said. "I wholly reject the defendant's account."
While this was not enough to convict him alone, Ms Stafford said Ms Cooper was an "honest and reliable witness" and she accepted her evidence that Thomson only released his grasp when his victim "went limp".
A backup charge of common assault was withdrawn and dismissed.
A 12-month apprehended violence order protecting Ms Cooper was granted and a cross-application was not pressed by Thomson's legal team.
Thomson is expected to be sentenced on August 15, after a report considering his suitability for community service work is prepared.
Outside court, Ms Cooper said she was "relieved" by the result.
She hoped the case would serve as a lesson for others experiencing tensions over packed surf breaks.
"It's not worth hurting anyone over a wave," she said. "We've all just got to learn from this and learn that... surfing's just going to get more popular."