Perspectives on A ustralia’s most in tense surf town.
Sand has always been intertwined with the history of Coolangatta. In 1846 an 83ft schooner sailed south from Brisbane; equipped with two convict labourers, the Coolangatta’s mission was to load 70 000 ft of valuable redcedar at the Tweed River, and transport the cargo to Sydney. Plans were thwarted when Captain Steele arrived to find the Tweed River entrance blocked with sand and silt and thus inaccessible. Anchoring just north in the lee of Point Danger, the aptly named Steele began doggedly ferrying his cargo on board via beach-launched rafts. However, on August 8, 1846, a southeast gale and strong surf dragged the anchors and washed the Coolangatta ashore where a community of cedar-getters had already been established. Thirty-seven years later, surveyor, Henry Schneider, named the town after the ill-fated ship. Who knows, had it not been for the build up of all that sand in the mouth of the Tweed River, Captain Steele and his schooner might never have run aground and Coolangatta might have been known by some other name. Well over a century later the Tweed River entrance, now flanked by bouldered training walls, was still causing problems for boats. By the late 1990s a complicated consortium of state and local governments (remember it’s a border town) decided that radical action had to be taken. First, three million cubic metres of sand was dredged from the river-mouth and then a major sand bypass system began operating in 2001. It’s hard to say how much more navigable the bypass has made life for mariners, but there is little doubt that it has had a huge impact on the lives of surfers. Coolangatta always had incredible waves and an intensely competitive click of world-class surfers, but there’s no denying that all that government meddling with pipes and sandpumps has dramatically intensified the role surfing plays in the community. It’s all those granules of white gold that bring the Quiksilver Pro with its melting pot of pros, parties and industry, back to Snapper every year. And as much as they might malign the crowds now, it’s the suggestively named ‘Superbank’, which helped build the careers of Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Steph Gilmore and Dean Morrison. The same 1.2 mile man-enhanced miracle attracts aspiring surfers from around the world who are convinced that its magical properties might deliver them to the pro surfing promised land. It’s also where the hoards of regular punters temporarily migrate with internetfed dreams of a perfect ride, often finding an aquatic staging of FightClub instead. In the wake of this year’s Quiksilver Pro Tracks caught up with a number of individuals whose lives evolve around Coolangatta. Most were born and raised, but others followed the flow of sand from South to North in search of a surfing destiny. Each has a different perspective, but hopefully their combined stories deliver an insight into what is one of the world’s most dynamic surfing epicentres.