THE Paddle-out is a ceremony within the surfing fraternity normally reserved for grieving.
On Sunday, hundreds of protesters gathered at Nobbys Beach as surfers took to the water to send a peaceful but powerful message against offshore oil and gas exploration off the coast of Newcastle.
The event was organised by Surfrider Foundation Australia, in collaboration with Newcastle community group Save Our Coast (Stop Seismic Testing).
It was one of several protests held across the country, including the Great Australian Bight, attended by thousands.
Save Our Coast's Natasha Deen said using the paddle-out as a means of protest allowed for reflection on "how much the coast means to us and how we are willing to defend it."
Asset Energy has a Petroleum Exploration Permit covering 4500 square meters of coastal waters between Newcastle and Manly. In 2018 it conducted 2D seismic blasting off the coast of Newcastle. It intends to return this year to conduct 3D seismic blasting.
Save our Coast has been campaigning against its plans for 14 months and has collected 43,000 signatures on petitions.
"People in the community are saying enough is enough," Dr Deen said. "We have had 12 events in the community attended by thousands.
"The opposition in the community is growing and there are a very diverse group of voices opposed to the plan to seismic blast off the coast for gas.
"We have now gone into the Central Coast and there is a lot of opposition there as well.
"A thousand square kilometres of 3D seismic testing is currently being planned for our coast."
Science shows seismic testing is harmful to marine life, Dr Deen said,
Surfrider Foundation Newcastle representative Simon Jones said surfers had an indescribable connection to the ocean.
"When we fight for our coast, we do it for the ones who came before us, and the ones who share the water with us, and the ones who will still be out there when we're gone," Mr Jones said.
"It's our identity, and it's not for sale."