Travel article Surfing guide
LAST UPDATED 01/07/2008
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Sunshine Coast Surf brings the best of surfing and surfers on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland..
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Level of surfing


Quality of surf


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25,760 km


Arid to Semi Arid interior. Temperate South East, Tropical North


Cyclones, Extreme Heat

Best Months

May - September




Australian Dollar (AUD) Australian dollars per US dollar - 1.3285 (2006)

Time Zone


Special Requirements

Lengthy VISA Process


Map of Australia

One of the true blue ribbon surfing destinations of the earth. No other country has produced more surfing world champions. Australia, the worlds largest island, the worlds smallest continent. Is it fair that less than 1% of the earths population enjoys 10% of it's coastline? Whatever the answer, the result for the surfer is an endless variety of waves including some of the best rivermouth, beach breaks, reefs and pointbreaks in the world. With just a little bit of planning, it's possible to enjoy some of the best waves you will ever surf with no more than a handful of people.


Nathanial Dance: Official Portrait of Captain James Cook; c1775

The continent of Australia has been settled by Indiginous Australians for somewhere approaching 50,000 years. The Aboriginal peoples in that time created a unique and beautiful culture. Australia was the great habitated landmass to be discovered and as such the unique people and fauna of the island were able to develop in near total isolation. From the 1600’s through until 1769, Australia was visited by various European explores, privateers and shipwreck survivors and it was not until 1770 that the continent was claimed by Captain James Cook for Britian, sailing in the Barque HMS Endeavour.

The first penal colony was established in present day Sydney in 1788 and over the next 50 years, other colonies grew around the sites of the countries modern day capitals as the majority of the continent was explored. At one stage New Zealand was part of the colony of New South Wales before it became a separate governing colony – it is very important that you remind as many New Zealanders of this fact as possible in your travels.

The gold rushes of the 1850’s were to see the population of the continent soar and on 01 January 1901 the six colonies were to form the Commonwealth of Australia, that remains in place today. Australia’s other land areas include several sub Antartic Islands and external territories such as Norfolk, Christmas and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Unfortunately, the growth of Australia took a heavy toll on the indiginous population and today many Australians see the true integration of Aboriginal culture with the predominant mainly European and more recently Asian culture of prime importance to the future of the nation.

Australia has been a staunch ally of both the British Empire and more recently the United States and today all three countries share close cultural, economic and military ties. Most Australians and New Zealanders consider the fateful World War I landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915 as the emergence of both countries onto the world stage. The date, 25 April is celebrated in both countries as ANZAC Day, similar to days such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day commerorated in other countries.


Bells Beach, Australia; March 2006

The Australian coastline has excellent exposure to all swells from the north east through to the north west. All states possess excellent surf locations with regular swell. The Northern Territory which lies just to the south of Indonesia is shielded from the majority of all but the rarest of cyclonic swell that manages to make landfall without the accompanying 100 knots of onshore wind. The capital of the Northern Territory, Darwin was completely destroyed by a cyclone in 1972.

Despite what tourist brochures will suggest, it actually does get cold in parts of Australia during winter, particulalry in Tasmania and southern Victoria, you will need serious rubber during winter down there. Vast amounts of the Australian coastline have not been fully explored for their surefing potential. Other areas offer closely guarded secrets that you will need to work hard to discover, rewards are there for the brave. Remember to respect the locals, leave only footprints and as Jack Norris'll be perfectly fine.

A pitching deck, the creak of well worn timbers, the cracking of sail and canvas...tied to the mast.  Things have changed a little I guess from when Jack London and  Josef Conrad wrote their haunting Pacific infused epics but it hasnt changed everythwhere. There are corners of this earth where that mythos still holds true, and most of those  corners are here in the South Pacific.

The main source of swell here is from the intense lows that circle the earth south of Australia, these lows spin off northwards with blessed regularity, peppering the entire region with generous SE to SW groundswell from March to September. Australia and New Zealand see the bulk of these swells. These countries cast a very tall shadow across the rest of the Pacific and hence many other islands in their wake can suffer from swell difusion. December to February is cyclone season. Unpredictable cells can deliver swell in a 360 radius, lighting up rarely breaking reefs and points facing every conceivable direction. 

The South Pacific trade winds are some of the most consistent in the world, generally from the East with slight seasonal variation. This is the largest Ocean on the planet and these winds easily generate regular rideable swell. Onshore conditions can be a problem on east facing coastlines but peeling yourself out for an early surf will usually bring some relief.

In the North Pacific it is the intense lows descending from the Aleutians that deliver NE to NW swells from October to March. Hawaii is ideally placed to make best use of this energy but other coastlines in the region have their own less publicised and far less crowded gems.

Jun to October also sees rarer hurricane swell radiate out from southern Mexico. This energy is often felt right throughout Polynesia. With so many energy vectors at work it is very hard not to find a wave. 

Places such as Australia that offer rideable options on every coast will ensure that regadlesss of the conditions, somewhere there will be a wave. In fact quite often there will be a very good one. 



Holden VN Calais,complete with roof racks; 1988

Australia is well serviced by international airlines. Depending on how long you have in the country you may wish to fly into Brisbane (Queensland) and sample some of the world quality breaks to the north such as Noosa-arguably one of the best longboard waves in the world. Burleigh Heads and The Superbank are must see destinations before you head south towards Sydney and down the east coast. In doing so you will have covered a thousand kilometres of some of the best waves in the world.

If time permits, head west to see Bells Beach and strap yourself in for the trip across the Nullabor. Rare gems such as Cactus offer enormous rewards for surfers of spirit. Eventually you will reach Margaret River and a coastline of surfing potential that will blow your mind. You should look to buy a car for a trip like this. You could buy something up to the task for $1000, buy it in Brisbane and sell it on the west coast in Perth when you're done. Buses, trains and planes connect all major centres if you are a little short on time.

Be careful if you use jetstar for internal flights. At the time of writing this there is a baggage length limit of 8 feet. It has something to do with the length of the storage bins that go into the aircraft. If you are taking a longboard consider QANTAS or Virgin, unless you want to have to leave that brand new 9'2" Yater Spoon at the baggage desk. Having said this, Australia has more surf shops than anywhere else in the world. You will have no problems in picking up a board either used or new in any coastal city, including work from international shapers.


Tourism NT: Wet Season storm at night, Darwin; Jan 2007 (

Australia has a very large swell window, May through to September which spans either side of winter offers the best swell from the east through to the west which services all coasts. Sureface conditions are often superior during this time with prevailing offshore winds typically in force between storm cycles.

These large storm cells originate in the Antartic ocean and explode as enormous low pressure systems which drift slowly from the coast, leaving in their wake long period solid swells that run for weeks at a time.  Spring lies between the Winter and Summer swell patterns and can be frustratingly inconsistent but the summer pattern of strong afternoon onshore winds creates more reliable though smaller northerly swells that light up specialist points on the east and west coasts early in the morning. Occasionally, tropical cyclones which are prevelant over the summer will thread their way down the left and right coasts, depositing massive northerly swells that create quality left handers across hundreds of kilometres of coastline.

where to stay

Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia; Jan 2006

The country is well covered with ample accomodation to suit every style and budget, from backpacker style boarding houses in the city through to 5 star spa retreats in the country and everything in between. Almost everwhere is family friendly, especially the gold coast in Queensland, in fact the state has based an entire economy on specialising in providing reasonably priced family accomodation. It just so happens that there are some of the beach breaks in the world right on your door stop there as well – cool huh.

what to pack

Andre Karwath; Salami; 2005

All major cities are well stocked with every convenience that you really should need for your visit. If you are looking to be totally prepared then make sure you stock up on sunscreen, insect repellant and protective clothing such as hats, sunglasses etc. If you are planning on doing some hiking, make sure your boots and gear are cleaned before you enter.

Australian quarantine is very thorough. You wont be able to bring any meats or cheeses into the country without special permits. If in doubt check the Australian customs site to check if an item you are looking to bring in is allowed. You really wont have any problems in picking up any surf related consumables such as legropes, wax or even a new board no matter where you are. Even Alice Springs has a surf shop – despite it being in the centre of Australia and over 1200 kilometres from the nearest surf beach.

dangers and warnings

Niranjan: Great White Shark, South Australia; Aug 2007

Australians are very proud of the fact that some of the deadliest wildlife in the world calls their shores home. Starting from the north, Saltwater Crocodiles are a real menace to swimmers around the Northern Territory and far north Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef along Queenslands coast contains some of the most amazing tropical reef that you will ever dive or snorkel on.

Beware of Lionfish and Scorpionfish – their poison is deadly. Jelly fish can be a real hazard for swimmers and surfers alike, the deadly box jellyfish and Irukandji of Northern Queensland can kill a swimmer within minutes. Further south the appearance of swarms of blue bottles (Portuguese Man o wars) are more of a nuisance than a hazard but can still inflict a nasty sting. Inland you have the most venomous snake in the world, the Taipan. Out of the top 10 deadliest snakes in the world, Australia has six of them.

Watch out for redback spiders and funnel webs if you are bushwalking. Whilst you have a greater chance of being hit by a bus, shark attacks can and do occur in Australia. Thankfully few are more than cuts of grazes from confused or startled animals. Great White and Tiger Sharks are present around Australia and these two species have been responsible for most deliberate attacks. Obeying standard procedure will limit any risk of attack such as avoiding swimming at dawn and dusk, avoiding swimming in water with seal or prolific fish activity and always leaving the water if you suffer a cut or any bleeding.

restaurants, shopping and nightlife

Sydney, New South Wales - At Night

You can really take your pick of restaurants especially in the larger capital cities. Modern Australia is actually a very diverse mix of European and Asian cultures, accordingly cuisines from all of these countries can be experienced. You will see some restaurants advertising their cuisine as Modern Australian – this is a good example of a menu which is likely to contain such a mix, using local produce such as lamb and seafood dishes coupled with European style vegetables and asian influenced sauces and dressings – enjoy.

The wife and kids will have a ball shopping after you have negotiated the early morning session, from duty free to antiques and souveniers. 90% of Australia’s population live on the coast and any large city will be well stocked with the above. Smaller coastal cities can be great sources of local rural produce, perfect to recharge the batteries.

Nighlife varies from anything goes in larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne through to a quite drink in the beer garden on a Friday night in the bush. Most Australian’s are very friendly to tourists – except those that have managed to beat the Australian team in either cricket or rugby recently.

what to do when its flat

BobTheCorkDwarf: Australia vs Ireland; 15 Nov 2006

There is a lot to keep you busy in between swells. It actually snows quite a bit in winter on the Australian Highlands (Aug-Oct ski season). In fact the Australian ski fields are larger in area than Switzerland, snowboarding and skiing are popular if you happen to be on the east coast. Many regions have excellent diving and snorkelling also.

The coastline can be truly spectacular. The great ocean road is the name of the road taking you around southern Victoria, you will get to see the famous Bells Beach also – not to be missed. Make sure you take some time to see the bush, inland Australia has some real charm and some of the most unique and diverse fauna in the world.

useful phrase guide

Tristanb: Vegemite on Toast; 18 Jan 2004

Arvo : afternoon
Budgie smugglers : men's bathing costume
Cockroach : a person from New South Wales
Dag : a funny person, nerd, goof
Esky : large insulated food/drink container for picnics, barbecues
Furphy : false or unreliable rumour
G'Day : hello!
Hooroo : goodbye   
Joey : baby kangaroo
Knocker : somebody who criticises
Larrikin : a bloke who is always enjoying himself,
Maccas (pron. "mackers") : McDonald's (the hamburger place)
Never Never : the Outback, centre of Australia
Old fella : penis
Pig's arse! :
I don't agree with you
Pom, pommy : an Englishman
Pommy bastard : an Englishman
Pommy shower : using deodorant instead of taking a shower
Pommy's towel, as dry as a : very dry - based on the assumption that Poms bathe about once a month
Rapt : pleased, delighted

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