Monday 21 August 2017 / 06:56 AM

GOLD COAST’S ALLURE STRONG AS EVER

It’s a combination of long-standing erosive forces, dynamic sand movement and seasonal weather influences which have created the perfectly contoured point breaks that have become the internationally famous surfing destination on the south-east coast of Queensland.

The Gold Coast. Synonymous with Australian surf culture: the warm weather, tropical water and perfect breaks draw in surfers from all over the world, year after year.

The Gold Coast has birthed and nurtured some of Australia’s greatest surfing superstars. From Michael Peterson, Phyllis O’Donnell and Wayne Bartholomew, to Stephanie Gilmore and Mick Fanning.

Even 11-time world champion Kelly Slater was not immune to the pull of the golden waters, buying his first Gold Coast property 12 years ago.

Given the prestige and allure Australia’s Golden Coast has to surfers worldwide, it’s easy to understand why ‘surfing paradise’ has been the first stop on World Surfing Tour for as long as most of us can remember.

“It’s warm and beautiful — the Gold Coast has always been the starting point of the world tour,” said Wayne Bartholomew, 1978 World Champion and President of the Association of Surfing Professionals from 1999 to 2000.

It was in June 1966 when the GC pulled in its first big surfing crowd, playing host to the Australian Titles.

Nat Young won the event with Bob McTavish coming in second, Russell Hughes third and a young Midget Farrelly taking out fourth.

It was 11 years before another major surfing contest excited crowds on a Gold Coast beach. In 1977 surfers flocked to the hills at Burleigh Heads to watch Australia’s best in ythe Stubbies Classic.

Organised by Peter Drouyn, the Stubbies was the first surfing contest to use the man-on-man heat format.

Not only did fans get to watch Michael Peterson and Mark Richards go head to head in a memorable finale, but they could also enter and compete against their idols. The official entry into the inaugural competition was the pocket poster from a pair of Stubbies board shorts.

Peterson beat Richards, in what would be the enigmatic Peterson’s last competition before retiring from professional surfing.

“These days they call the surfing world tour the so-called ‘Dream Tour’,” four-time world champ Richards said.

“Well, in 1977 this was the dream event. It ushered in an era of man-on-man surfing, where four- and six-man heats were the norm.

“It was also the foundation for events to be run in perfect surfing conditions as well as use of waiting periods. In a way, the ’77 Stubbies laid the blueprint for what professional surfing is today.”

In 1994, surf giant Billabong sponsored the Gold Coast stop with Snapper, Kirra, Burleigh, Duranbah and Point Look Out on North Stradbroke Island all hosting the international competition.

In 2002 Quicksilver took over the naming rights, and the Quiksilver Pro and Roxy Pro were born.

Michael Peterson’s win in 1977 set the trend for legends to take the Gold Coast podium, with Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Gabriel Medina, Layne Beachley, Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore and current world champ Tyler Wright all following his footsteps to the top.

Given the popularity of the area with surfers and the number of world champions that have come from the region, it’s no surprise the stretch of coast from Burleigh Heads to Snapper Rocks became a world surfing reserve.

Despite the lack of support from previous Queensland governments, the Gold Coast beat Noosa and Guarda Do Embaú beach near Rio in Brazil to join the elite ranks of the world’s best beaches last year.

[YouTube – Dan Webber]

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About the author

Jaymie Faber

Jaymie Faber is a freelance surf and travel writer, and author of a women’s learn to surf book. From Sunshine Coast, Australia, she is mad about surfing, ocean conservation and exploring ‘off the grid’ locations. Jaymie writes for various publications and magazines around the world. See more at jaymiefaber.com

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