See & do
The best Gold Coast surf breaks
Tim Baker | November 29, 2021
Why our city is one great, big, wave-making and surf star-producing machine.
The sublime, world-renowned surfing conditions on the Gold Coast were 25 million years in the making, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption and a remarkable confluence of natural and man-made forces.
When that giant volcano where Mount Warning, or Wollumbin now stands, erupted over 25 million years ago, its lava flows created the characteristic ridge lines and headlands that define the Gold Coast. A steady northerly drift of sand from the mighty rivers of Northern NSW accumulated around these headlands and adjacent beaches, creating the ideal bathymetry for quality surfing waves.
East Coast low pressure systems and tropical cyclones provide the energy to deliver consistent swells to these inviting points and beaches, and prevailing south-west winds groom these swells into perfect peeling waves.
Our city’s coastline forms a large, crescent-shaped bay, ensuring there is almost always a surf able option in all wind and swell conditions, a remarkable surfing fun park, bookended by Snapper Rocks and South Stradbroke Island, with the famous point breaks of Snapper, Greenmount, Kirra, Currumbin and Burleigh in between.
Little wonder the Gold Coast has produced a proud lineage of surfing champions, from Phyllis O’Donnell, Michael Peterson, Rabbit Bartholomew, and Peter Townend in the ‘60s and ‘70s, to Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Stephanie Gilmore in the 2000s.
Home of the all-conquering Snapper Rocks Surfriders Club, the popular point break has only been enhanced by the Tweed River Sand By-pass scheme delivering a steady flow of sand to groom its contours. This sand flow linked the adjacent point breaks of Snapper, Greenmount and Kirra into one of the longest waves in the country, the so-called Superbank, that has delivered rides up to 2 km and four minutes long.
The majesty of Kirra Point has ebbed and flowed over the years with the construction, and adjustments of the Kirra groyne and the vagaries of sand flow. At the height of its powers in the 70s through to the 90s it was the wave by which all other waves were measured. Though it is somewhat more fickle these days, large cyclone swells can still produce glimpses of the old Kirra magic and some of the longest tube rides in the country.
A popular break for surfers of all levels and every type of surf craft, the Alley caters to all tastes. From intense barrels from behind the rock, to long gentle peelers for beginners close to shore, and outside banks that handle some of the biggest swells, the Alley plays host to everyone from surf school learners and big-wave tow-in surfers, to standup paddle boarders and elite school surfing groups.
The birthplace of the pro surfing world tour, with the historic Stubbies Classic in 1977, masterminded by local legend Peter Drouyn, Burleigh has provided the ideal testing ground for generations of elite surfers and surfboard shapers, with its long peeling walls and challenging barrel rides. A tricky rock jump off and long, fast barrel sections make it best suited to advanced surfers.
Northern beach breaks
From Miami to Main Beach to the Spit, an array of beach breaks offer many surfing options in moderate swells and north-west to northerly winds. The northern tip of the coast at the Spit even offers up clean conditions in the dreaded Spring nor-easters, ensuring there is almost always a surfable option somewhere on the coast.
South Stradbroke Island
Straddy, TOS or The Other Side, is a remarkable man-made phenomenon just a short trip over the Southport Seaway. Sand pumping from the Broadwater and deep offshore bathymetry draws powerful swells that break close to the beach, delivering hair-raising tube rides for advanced surfers.
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