Gold Coast – Surf Spot & Surf Camps Guide
What Southern California is to the US, Queensland, and specifically the Gold Coast, is to Australia. Like its American counterpart, this region is rich in perfect right points, talented surfers and pleasant weather, and is the heart of the surf industry, with virtually every major brand boasting corporate offices or other ostentatious representation in the area. And as if it wasn’t enough to simply be the center of everything surf-related, the state went ahead and claimed it too, actually naming a city “Surfer’s Paradise.”
Although it is definitely paid a lot of lip service, the Gold Coast lives up to the hype. When cyclone season comes around there aren’t many better places to be in the country, if not the world, and legend still reverberates about three-week runs of perfection at Kirra back in the early ’70s. The local talent runs deep as well, with the two most famous—Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson—holding down the 1 and 2 positions on the world tour as of this writing. And of course the Gold Coast surf history is as storied as anywhere, with characters and legends such as Rabbit Bartholomew and the late MP calling the area home.
The Waves: There may not be a higher density of perfect right points anywhere in the world. Gold Coast surf spots like Kirra, Burleigh Head, Greenmount and Snapper Rocks are all within 20 minutes of each other, and are collectively the benchmark against which all sand bottomed points are measured. And if the Gold Coast surf spots aren’t enough enough, the endless peelers of Noosa Heads to the north is as good as noseriding gets, and South Straddie in Surfer’s Paradise delivers heavy beach break barrels for those with the talent or jet ski assist to access them. Breaking predominantly over sand and rock points, the waves in the region range from beginner to expert, depending on the day.
Here’s a video of Taj Burrow enjoying a couple of surf spots up and down the Gold Coast:
The Water: For a highly developed, densely populated area, the water on the Gold Coast is relatively clean. It’s warm too, which is a nice bonus. Summer (Dec-Feb) sees water temps on the Gold Coast topping out at around 82 F (28 C), while winter (August) can see temps drop to as low as 66 F (19 C), so it never dips below the “cool” range, and a 3/2 wetsuit should get you through the coldest days.
The Season: January to July is prime season for surfing on the Gold Coast, with the late summer and autumn months often suffering doldrums that can seem endless at times.
The Vibe: It is crowded enough in the Gold Coast that localism isn’t really a factor, although there has been a bit of history between the various surf clubs. The real issue is how many really good surfers come from this area. Crowds can be at a maximum, and the lineup at Snapper Rocks (sometimes called the “Superbank”) is one of the most competitive in the world.
Things To Do: Surfer’s Paradise is party central, and traveling surfers are hot items in Australia, so bring a fancy shirt and your dancing shoes. To hippie out, either go north to Noosa or south to Byron. For professional surfing, check out the World Tour season opener at Snapper Rocks in late February. And if land sport is your thing, check out the State of Origin rugby league series, a best-of-three clash between Queensland and New South Wales. If you’re board gets dinged or you need new gear your in the right place – the Gold Coast has a heap of surf shops and is head quarters to a few big surf companies – Billabong and Australia’s largest online surf shop – Surf Stitch.
If you’re looking for surfing lessons in Currumbin checkout Surf Easy down at Currumbin Alley one of the Gold Coast’s nicest spots.
Where To Stay: Real estate is at a premium in Queensland, and especially on the Gold Coast, and accommodation prices will reflect this fact. There are hostels available for the budget seeker, however, so don’t be afraid to shop around. Typically, you will want to locate yourself within striking distance of the fabled right points, but for a change of pace a thirty-minute drive south will see you in small, friendly, uncrowded towns with a range of fun beach breaks. If you look around there are plenty of surf camps in the area as well.
What To Bring: A standard high-performance surfboard, and a log if you are going to Noosa. Board shorts or a 3/2 wettie, depending on what time of year you are coming. Cool to warm water wax. A pocket full of cash and a taste for the big time.
Getting There: Flights from LAX into Brisbane can run you between $700 and $2000, depending on the season. You can also fly straight into Coolangatta for easier access. Tourist visas can be arranged online before arrival and involve little to no hassle. Australia is a popular working holiday destination, and offers great visa opportunities, especially for young (under 30) citizens of the EU, who can come for up to 24 months if they spend three months in the fruit picking industry (12 months otherwise). Airport codes: BNE (Brisbane) and OOL (Coolangatta).