Over the last couple of weeks we’ve put up a number of pieces about the rapid growth of the wave pool industry and what it means for surfing. And while there’s no doubt that artificial waves are becoming an increasingly important part of the sport we love, they still can’t – and likely never will – compete with the real thing. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best REAL waves around the globe, starting off right here in our own beautiful backyard.
One of the most iconic waves in the country, Bells has been home to the Rip Curl Pro for nearly 50 years, and is perhaps even more well-known for being the place where it all ended for Bodhi in cult surf movie Point Break. The wave is located just outside of Torquay, the birthplace of Rip Curl, on Victoria’s Surf Coast, and is one of an abundance of peeling right hand reef breaks in the region.
The wave is not as steep or high-performance as Winkipop, another right-hander just a few hundred metres to the east, but underestimate its power at your own peril. The huge, long period swells which roll in, particularly in the winter months, are formed into orderly but powerful lines at the celebrated break, and hordes of surfers enjoy rides long enough to get their legs burning in a big way. Known globally for both its history and the quality of the wave, Bells is a must visit for anyone in Victoria.
A couple of thousand kilometres north of Bells is Lennox Head, another right-hand point break. Situated on the edge of a sleepy town that would have been even sleepier had this wave never been discovered, Lennox Head is often regarded as the best right-hander in the country. It’s fast, long, barrelling, and can handle all sizes of swell, meaning if you’re not an accomplished surfer it’s probably best to enjoy the wave from the cliffs which overlook it.
Adding to the drama is the presence of numerous hazards – namely a tough entry and exit to and from the wave over a rocky outcrop, protective locals, and the presence of more than a few men in grey suits. When you find yourself zipping down the line of a wave so perfect that it feels man-made, though, you’ll forget all about them.
If you’re heading north from NSW, Snapper Rocks is the first landmark you’ll come across when you enter Queensland, and it’s a good one. Just outside of Coolongatta, this is the region from where a huge amount of Australia’s best-known surfers grew up, and it’s easy to see why it produces so much talent.
Snapper Rocks is the beginning of what is known as the Superbank, an artificial sand bank which produces long, perfect right-handers. The wave consists of multiple barrel sections and big walls, and on the right day can be ridden for close to two kilometres – if your legs can handle it. Riding it for that long is also contingent on actually being able to get a wave – and then avoiding being dropped in on at some point down the line – because when it’s firing here, the crowds are like nothing you’ve seen before. Etiquette is to an extent thrown out the window, and if you want to enjoy all the wave has to offer, you better know what you’re doing.
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We head west now, to what many perceive to be the best wave in Australia – but which very few actually get the opportunity to surf. Caves is generally regarded as the best of a group of waves located around 20km south of the Nullarbor, on the mid-west coast of South Australia. That description alone should be enough to explain why, despite the quality of the wave, it doesn’t exactly draw the same kind of crowd as Snapper Rocks.
The wave, however, is phenomenal. There are numerous good ones in the vicinity, but Caves – another right-hander – is a favourite of locals. Producing long, peeling barrels, the wave can hold plenty of swell and on its day, is as close to perfection as it gets. There are, however, a couple of hazards to be aware of – the locals have a reputation for being pretty strict in their enforcement of their own set of rules, though many who have surfed here say that reputation is overblown, and it’s also one of the sharkiest spots in Australia. Caves is on the edge of a deep channel which, depending on who you believe, may or may not be something of a haven for Great Whites, and given you probably won’t be sharing the wave with more than a handful of people you’ll probably be dealing with a few dark thoughts.
If you continue along the Nullarbor for another couple of thousand k’s, eventually you’ll spot a turn off for Margaret River, one of the finest of a plethora of great waves in Western Australia. In fact Margaret River is the name of the town itself – which is home to a number of quality waves – but the wave many refer to as Margaret’s is actually called Surfer’s Point. The first and only left on this list, the wave doesn’t necessarily get as big as some of the others we’ve mentioned, but the powerful wave produces plenty of intimidating drops and heavy section to compensate.
Just to the north is a break known as The Box, one of the most intimidating waves in the country. The Box is a big, heavy right-hander which breaks over almost no water, and falling here is not generally recommended. Water is sucked off a rocky shelf and mutates into a thick lip which will be more than happy to throw you into the aforementioned shelf, but if you can avoid that you’ll be rewarded with a lightning quick wave which creates barrels you could set up camp in.
With so much coastline, it’s little surprise that Australia boasts such a high quantity of world class waves. The above are some of the best, but there’s no shortage of other quality beach, reef and point breaks around the country. Next up we’ll head north to Asia, and explore some of the best waves the vast continent has to offer.