IT WASN'T the souvenir Drew Atkins thought he'd be taking back to Sydney, but it is one he'll remember for some time to come.
Drew and two fellow Surfing NSW officials were ambushed under the cover of darkness by a gang of angry youths on the Park Beach foreshore on Friday night about 11pm.
He was punched to the ground and only the intervention of a bystander protected the 28-year-old from being kicked as he lay unconscious.
His mate, respected surfer Terry Day, 50, wasn't so lucky.
He copped a blow that left him hospitalised with a fractured vertebrae.
"We were forced to defend ourselves in a totally unprovoked attack," Mr Atkins said.
"These guys asked for a cigarette and just started throwing punches, and then all these other guys have jumped us from the bushes with sticks and bats."
The three visiting surf officials were walking to their motel after a night out.
Witnesses said up to 20 youths, some armed with tree branches, had emerged from a beach track.
The ugly incident, condemned by community leaders and police, has strengthened calls for vegetation to be cleared and lighting and security improved at Park Beach.
Surfing NSW CEO Mark Windon said if safety concerns are not addressed at Park Beach, Coffs Harbour could stand to lose future surfing contests.
"I love Coffs and we have brought a few surfing events to town over the years to shoulder the downturn in tourism, but this attack may jeopardise us bringing more events to the area," Mr Windon said.
"We are in negotiations to come back for three years, but what if that had been a family in that position? We have an obligation of safety to the 350 families who travelled here for the junior state titles.
"Locals have since told us it's not safe to walk on the ocean side of the road after dark; it's not a good look for Coffs at all."
Police attended the scene and patrolled nearby streets after the fight, but have since been told the victims do not wish to provide statements or press charges.
Mr Windon said Surfing NSW hopes to turn the incident into a positive and work with community groups to encourage misguided local youth into its surfing programs.
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