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Snapper Rocks

Snapper Rocks

Coolangatta - Gold Coast - Queensland, Australia

Surf, SUP, Bodyboard

Snapper Rocks is the crown jewel on the Gold Coast, Eastern Australia. It’s a right with sandy seabed and because of its good banks and shapes, it’s definitely in the top ten of the world’s best rights. It’s located in the coastal city Coolangatta, in the state of Queensland. It’s one of the world’s surf meccas and thousands of surfers from all over the world arrive there for one reason or another. To get there, you can fly to Gold Coast International Airport in Coolangatta or Brisbane Airport. Both are a little over an hour away by car on the M1. If you are coming from Sydney, you could drive the interesting nine hour coastal route along the Pacific Highway. Once you’re in Coolangatta, you can park and look for accommodation around Snapper Rocks Road, crossing Rainbow Bay in the Greenmount area.

Like every world class spot, it has unique characteristics due to its geological origin. Snapper Rocks is the easternmost point of Australia, which emerged 20 million years ago around a volcano near to the coast that configured the coastal profile. Its lava flows left submerged volcanic rock which now accumulate the sand and deposit it along the coastline, depending on the direction of the currents and waves. It all depends on the ocean’s dynamics and the Tweed River mouth which naturally deposits the sandbars at Snappers and the following sections, Greenmount and Kirra. Snappers has always been in the shadow of its sister Kirra, however, in the eighties, the remodelling of the Tweed River mouth to improve the navigability altered the bars and therefore the waves, leaving Kirra the most affected. In 1995, the solution arrived with the installation of an artificial system that dredged the deposited sand from the river mouth and pumped it to the other side creating, little by little, what is now known as Superbank. Superbank is a sandbar that is nearly two kilometres long and, with adequate conditions and a solid swell, the waves can be linked from Snappers, passing Greenmount, until Kirra. This was evident in the autumn of 2002 when the local surfer Damon Harvey surfed from Snapper Rocks to Kirra with a 6 foot swell, a 1.5 km ride which was recorded as the longest wave ever surfed.

snapperrocks-surf

Snapper Rocks has been the centre of attention on the Gold Coast since early in the XXI Century, for example, it’s been the fixed host for the first stop of the Quik Pro Gold Coast world tour since 2002. The competitiveness there has forged the surfing of world champions like Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and others like Bede Durbige, Julian Wilson, Josh Kerr and Stephanie Gilmore who also stand out in the WCT. Others that took part are the legendary Dean Morrison, Luke Munro and aspiring youngsters like Dale Richards, Blake Ainsworth, Jack Freekstone and Nick Vasicek, who is one of the best backhand. We have to remember the legendary world champions like Peter Townsend and Rabbit Bartholomew, one of the best in the Snapper Rock Surfrider's club. This is also a spot where some of the best shapers in the world trial their boards, among those are Murray Bourton, Darren Handley, Jason Stevenson, Nev Hyman, Matt 'Mayhem' Biolos and others that are less known internationally but very well known among the locals. There are always many people in the water at Snapper Rocks. It’s such a distinguished right that it seems like the surfers queue up for it, and it doesn’t matter if you get up early as there will already be people in the water. Just remember that the large influx, the high level and tradition along the years means that the surfers are well-educated in the water and with respect and being attentive, you’ll enjoy one of the best waves in the world.

Conditions

On an epic day, it can be the longest and best quality point break in the world with barrels and bowls all the way from Snapper Rocks to Kirra. At the Snapper Rocks peak, the strong transition between a depth of 15 feet and the sandbanks just at the peak, in front of the rocks, creates the most difficult section and the one which is often 1 or 2 feet bigger than the rest of Superbank. It’s very difficult to catch a wave because the take off zone is narrow and very technical. The wave has a large variety of sections and begins with a potent drop followed by a very fast section with long tight barrels. As mentioned, it is possible to link up to the gentler Greenmount sections. It’s worth knowing that the first wave is the best of the series because the backwash makes the drop in quite difficult in the following waves.

It’s important to select your wave well at Snappers because the best ones aren’t the biggest, but those that are smaller and start taking shape as they move through the line up. To go in, the safe option is to paddle out from the beach near to the rocks. Those that jump from the rocks in front of the peak know what they are doing because you have to pick the right moment. If it’s a good size, there is usually a very strong current and there is the option of going out by Rainbow Bay and re-entering by the peak. Snapper works with a wide variety of swells. The S swell comes parallel along the coast from the Tasmanian Sea, and is more probably during April and September. The periods reach 16 seconds and the waves open quite well although they aren’t as hollow, giving perfect conditions for longboards. The ESE swells form in cyclones around New Zealand’s North Island between December and June, and they are quite consistent, usually lasting for more than a week.

snapperrocks-surf

The conditions of these swells change constantly and they can reach more than 6 feet with periods between 12 and 15 seconds, producing waves that improve their shape along the way. The ENE swell forms in cyclones that are generated around New Caledonia. These are the best for some because the sections are more difficult and they offer unpredictable barrels with double up sections, there are less currents and the lower periods mean that the waves split, meaning more people can catch them. The NNE swell, which is more common between September and December, has less quality but generates fun waves with the advantage that there is no current, and although the waves are more unpredictable, there are opportunities for all. The best conditions are usually in autumn, from February until April. It’s the cyclone season and the main swell direction, SE-ESE, is predominant. The best is with a mid tide that is falling and the best size is from 4 to 6 with S-SW breezes, which are more frequent between May and September. The SE breezes aren’t too bad in the last sections and these are more frequent between January and April. When there is less swell, Duranbah (D-bah) is the best option. It’s a beachbreak with various good quality peaks.
Optimal Conditions
  • Wave
    Right Pointbreak
  • Wind
    SW
  • Tide
    Medium - Low
  • Swell
    ESE - SE - ENE
  • Bottom
    Sand
  • Size
    3 to 10 ft
  • Time of year
    From February to May
Suggested Spots
  • 54 km from Snapper Rocks Byron Bay - New South Wales, Australia
  • 1424 km from Snapper Rocks Torquay - Melbourne - Victoria, Australia
  • 2248 km from Snapper Rocks Waikato - West Coast - North Island, New Zealand
  • 2668 km from Snapper Rocks Tavarua - Viti Levu , Fiji