Stab Magazine | Snapper Rocks is the designer bank

Snapper Rocks is the designer bank

Story by Ali Klinkenberg Fact is, the success of a professional surfing competition relies on uncontrollable variants. Swell, tide and wind? Awesome sources of anxiety for event organisers! But the Quiksilver Pro, Snapper Rocks is the only event on the WSL calendar where the event organisers can directly alter the playing field. And the local […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Story by Ali Klinkenberg

Fact is, the success of a professional surfing competition relies on uncontrollable variants. Swell, tide and wind? Awesome sources of anxiety for event organisers! But the Quiksilver Pro, Snapper Rocks is the only event on the WSL calendar where the event organisers can directly alter the playing field. And the local council holds the keys. Namely, via the Tweed River Sand Bypassing program.

The program was originally set up to create safe entry to the Tweed River and to replenish the erosion of the south Gold Coast beaches. The creation of the ‘Superbank’ was a fortuitous side effect for Snapper. When the sand, pumped from just south of the Tweed River mouth, is accompanied by a gentle South Swell, it washes around to Snapper and fills in behind the rock, creating the tubing starting block to the Snapper track. Before the sand-pumping started, Snapper was a mal-infested burger, not the hi-fi runway that we now know it as.


If the Quik Pro were anywhere but Snapper, the crowd wouldn’t be able to stand in ankle-deep water and watch Kelly get shacked a few metres away from them. Photo: Ryan Miller

The Tweed Shire council has the final say in flicking the switch on the sand pump at Fingal. But, seeing that the Quiksilver Pro is the largest event of the Gold Coast year, and most beneficial to tourism (an expected $10 million boost to the local economy), it’s in the best interest of the Council and the surfers to have the best conditions possible.

The WSL event site for this year is the biggest and closest to the water yet, front and centre at Snapper Rocks. And here’s the thing: Although the contest site is ‘mobile,’ it’s in the interest of the WSL to run the event at Snapper, rather than Greenmount or Kirra. The reason being that the judging tower, and all the broadcasting equipment, is pointed at the zone behind the rock. Jay Phillips, Snapper Rocks boardriders president and personal advisor to Commissioner Kieren Perrow for the event, gave us a first-hand analysis of the current state of the sand.

“It’s breaking a bit wide of the rock at Snapper and running through Little Marley,” says Jay. “But Marley’s got this perfect shape. Then it’s perfect throughout Rainbow, and Greenmount’s got amazing shape as well, and then Kirra’s just been beautiful.”

But as Jay says, fear of Cyclone Marcia destroying the banks was misplaced. “It’s the big south swells that create those big holes in the sand behind the rock. This one’s been a big east one, so it hasn’t really affected it. There’s a little hole behind the rock, but that was already there.”


See out behind the rock there? Overshadowed by the game inside. This is how things have looked for the last five-ish days thanks to Cyclone Marcia. Pre-sand pump. Photo: Simon Muirhead

So the question at present is, “do we turn on the pump?” It takes around 48 hours to get sand behind the rock, but only if there’s a little South in the swell, which there is at present. “It’s a surfers dream that when you’re loosing sand behind the rock you can just turn it back on and have it back in a few days,” says Jay. But, as we’ve seen in the last few days, the other sections of the point are flawless. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Interfering with the sand might improve the situation behind the rock, but what it will do to the rest of the point isn’t certain (though, it’s hard to imagine it maintaining its current shape).

Cost is a major factor in the sand pumping process. Not just the cost of electricity (the pump is turned on at night to get that off-peak rate), but also the fact that every cubic metre of sand taken from Fingal beach has to be repaid to the local Indigenous community, as it’s Aboriginal land.

A meeting between senior members of the Gold Coast surfing community, including Rabbit and Bruce Lee, the WSL, including Kieren Perrow and Jay Phillips, and representatives from the Tweed Shire Council will take place today at cafe D’bah to discuss the state of the sand and whether the pump will be turned on.


And here’s how it can look behind the Rock when it’s on. And if he’s home, you can be sure that Mick Fanning will be in the mix every time. Photo: Azad Sellars


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