Australian Surfing History
Surfing is a very popular watersport, and Australia has some of the best surfing spots in the world, possessing some of the surfing champion of the world. Surfies travel the globe looking for 'the' waves, and many of those occur around the Australian coastline, in particular the infamous Bell's Beach. Always take local advice on the waves, which must be treated with respect. Check out some of the popular surfing beaches.
When the surfing counter-culture took hold in Australia in the late 1960s, the NSW north coast quickly became the promised land for anyone with a board and a hankering for an alternative lifestyle communing with the waves. “Discovered” in the early 1970s, the point break at Angourie remained relatively unheralded for the next two decades, but it’s world famous nowadays as home break of Aussie surfing legend Nat Young. Endlessly filmed and fawned over, the right-hand point-break at Lennox Head rates a mention in any discussion of Australia’s best wave.
One of the best and most photogenic long-board breaks in the world, the point at Noosa is capable of producing a genuine 200 metre ride on its best days. In a decent swell especially there’s always a big crew of locals riding it who really know how to “walk the plank”, but when it’s smaller it’s perfect for beginners – a long, easy-rolling cruise.
Snapper Rocks is a sand bottom point break considered as a world renowned surfing spot on the Gold Coast. Snapper, located at Rainbow Bay, is home to the world-famous ‘Super Bank’, regarded in surfing circles as the longest, most consistent and most hollow wave in the world. The swell here often reaches six to eight feet, and one good, clean wave can transport you from Snapper to Kirra, a distance of almost two kilometres. Snapper Rocks hosts elite international surfing events such as the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro, Rip Curl Masters, and MP Classic. It is also a favourite surfing spot of local world champs, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Stephanie Gilmore, who enjoy nothing more than surfing their own ‘local’ break when they’re at home.
Lighthouse Beach and Treachery Beach at Seal Rocks are south-facing and known for generating epic waves when a south swell rolls in. Just 22km up the road at Pacific Palms, Boomerang Beach and Bluey’s Beach are blessed with their own postcard waves shaped by prominent headlands, and often visited by cheeky dolphins that love showing the rest of us how surfing should really be done. This part of the NSW coast has remained miraculously undeveloped too; there’s nary a high-rise, nightclub or casino in sight, making it the perfect place for a true ‘soul surfer’ experience.
Beginning at Manly Beach and running 20km north to Palm Beach, Sydney’s northern peninsula offers a succession of surf beaches unmatched by a city environment anywhere else on earth. Manly itself has playful beach breaks and punchy barrels, plus the offshore Queenscliff “Bommie” (bombora), joy for big wave riders.
Historically and spiritually, Bells Beach is the home of Australian surfing and today is still the site of the country’s oldest and most prestigious professional surfing event; nowadays named the Rip Curl Pro, the winner still receives the traditional clanging bell trophy. Swells from the Southern Ocean slow down and steepen over the shallow reefs to produce outstanding surf that can rise to five metres or more, so when it gets big, most of us are best advised to think of surfing Bells as a spectator sport.
The coastline beginning just north of Port Macquarie through to Crescent Head is accessed via Point Plomer Road, which ribbons the coast for 25kms. Along this route are four perfect right-hand point-breaks, tailor-made for long-board riders, grommets and beginners and capable of generating miracle rides of 200 metres.
260km south of Perth, the tiny resort village of Yallingup marks the beginning of the famed Margaret River winery region, where wine enthusiasts and ‘waxheads’ (board-riders) have long converged in equal numbers. With several breaks that range from mild to monstrous depending on the swell, Yallingup is considered the best all-round surfing destination on Australia’s west coast.
From Melbourne, head south west to hit reliable breaks on the Bellarine Peninsula before Torquay, gateway to Victoria’s Surf Coast on the Great Ocean Road. Visit legendary Bells Beach, home to the annual Rip Curl Pro Surf and Music Festival Bird Rock. You’ll find gentler waves at popular Jan Juc, Point Impossible and Point Danger. Boogie board or learn to surf at Anglesea and nearby Fairhaven. Choose from right-handers and beach breaks in Lorne. The surf is almost always up in Apollo Bay and on the Shipwreck Coast, past Cape Otway. You’ll find great surf beaches at Warrnambool, Port Fairy, and Portland. South east of Melbourne head to the back beaches of the Mornington Peninsula or further east to Phillip Island.
In Sydney, you can choose from easy-to-reach ocean beaches a bus ride from the city centre. Learn to surf at Bondi or battle the breaks at Tamarama, Bronte or Maroubra. North of the harbour bridge, surf at Manly or dominate the empty waves in, Queenscliff, Curl Curl, Dee Why, Narrabeen, Avalon and Palm Beach. On the Central Coast, north of Sydney, try Avoca Beach, Terrigal and Newcastle. Further north you’ll find Crescent Head and Angourie surfing reserve before the breaks of Byron Bay. South of Sydney, visit the Royal National Park or the many surfing gems clustered around Cronulla. Continue south to Port Kembla, Killalea State Park and Jervis Bay.
Discover waves on the Gold Coast, a surfer’s paradise. Ride some of the world’s longest waves at the Snapper Rocks Superbank near Coolangatta. Travelling north, stop in Currumbin, Palm Beach, Burleigh Heads, Nobby Beach, Mermaid Beach and Broadbeach. Learn to surf on North Stradbroke Island or paddle to South Stradbroke across the Gold Coast Seaway. From Brisbane, the secluded surf beaches of Bribie and Moreton Islands beckon. Enjoy the clean, uncrowded waves of the Sunshine Coast in Caloundra, Moolooloba, Maroochydore, Coolum Beach and Noosa Heads. Learn to surf in Noosa, where the pristine beaches are fringed by bushland.
In Perth, surf the powerful waves of Trigg Island or the clean ocean curves of Scarborough or Cottesloe beaches. On nearby Rottnest Island, Strickland Bay is one of many surfing gems. In Margaret River, paddle out with the surfing elite at Surfers Point or tackle the monster swells at The Box, North Point, Smiths and Three Bears. Further south, you’ll find ten-foot waves at Yallingup Reef and two-handers in Gracetown. In Esperance, the excellent waves are created by hundreds of islands and reefs. North of Perth, Kalbarri, Geraldton and Exmouth are home to just some of the awe-inspiring breaks lining the coast to Ningaloo Reef.
It’s a short drive from Adelaide to the surf beaches of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Find reef and beach breaks from Christies to Sellicks in the centre, and huge swells in the south from Goolwa to Parsons. Kangaroo Island offers beginner beach breaks at Stokes, Vivonne and Pennington Bays and fearsome waves at Hanson and D’Estrees Bays. Ride waves on the international surfing stage in Innes National Park on the Yorke Peninsula. On the vast Eyre Peninsula, learn to surf at Venus Bay or tackle the legendary breaks of Cactus Beach. The Limestone Coast’s surf spots, such as Robe, Beachport and Cape Douglas, stretch all the way to Victoria.
Paddle out at Park and Clifton beaches near Hobart or venture further to Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula. On windswept Bruny Island, you can brave the big breaks at Cloudy Bay or carry your board through the World Heritage Area to South Cape Bay. On the northern coast, the huge swell is a gift from the Bass Strait. Try Tam O’Shanter north-east of Launceston or the Mersey Mouth at Devonport. Marrawah is Tasmania’s westernmost settlement and home to its biggest surf. Pull on your wetsuit and throw yourself onto the huge Southern Ocean swells.