Surf's up at the local surf breaks
All-year-round, Surf Coast beaches attract a steady stream of surfers looking for the perfect wave. Wind, tides and swell combine with beach geography to produce many surf breaks for all levels of surfing. In different combinations, they create varied beach conditions. West, north-west and north winds with mainly south-west swells can generate the best waves on the Surf Coast beaches.
The Australian Surfriders’ Association has a comprehensive guide to local surfing conditions that explains in detail all the variations and what to look for in your quest for the best waves. It also tells how weather patterns work and has maps with beach locations. It is available from the Australian National Surfing Museum and Visitor Information Centre in Torquay.
A few of Torquay's main surf breaks (east - west):
Best accessed via Minya Lane, Point Impossible has two popular surf breaks and a nude beach. The two surf breaks are Insides and Outsides. Insides, as the name suggests, is the more protected of the two, and very popular amongst long boarders. The wave offers a long right, especially with larger swells and north-west winds. Outsides picks up more swell, but sitting a distance off shore means it also picks up the wind and makes for a long paddle out. Both breaks are best surfed on a low - mid tide.
Torquay Back Beach / Rocky Point
A classic beach break finishing with a rocky point offering longer right hand waves at the west end of the beach. Torquay Back Beach is more protected than some of the surrounding surf beaches like Jan Juc, making it a more accessible surf spot for families and beginners. When the swell picks up, typical of a beach break, rips and currents grow in strength. The Torquay Life Saving Club patrol the beach during peak periods. During the Summer school holidays (Dec - Feb), crowds flock to Torquay Back Beach, making this one of the most packed breaks on the coast.
Another classic beach break offering consistent right and left waves depending on the current positions of the sand banks. Jan Juc is a long beach, spreading the thinner (than Torquay) crowds from the car park out. The waves work best on a mid - high tide with northwest winds. On low tide, there's not much beach. On a high tide, there's plenty of space to make a day of it. The Surf Life Saving Club patrols Jan Juc beach during peak periods, with the safest swimming being between the flags.
Located about five kilometres southwest of Torquay, Bells Beach is comprised of a high concentration of quality surfing spots from Southside to Steps Reef. In winter big swells and cold off-shore winds displays Bells at it’s best. Bells Beach has plenty of history, playing host to the world's longest running surf competition, the Rip Curl Pro, which is held over the Easter holidays. The car park sitting above Bells on the bluffs, offer excellent viewing, so even if you're not planning on paddling out, checking out the famous break is a must.
Point Addis is as fun for exploring as it is for surfing with large caves and tunnels exposed at the beaches west end on low tide. When exploring, be careful with a rising tide, as this section of the beach gets cut off with the incoming tide. For surfers, the main beach of Point Addis is very protected, offering small waves even when the swell is big elsewhere. The best surf is closer to the point, putting on some fun waves away from the larger crowds. Point Addis is one of two nude beaches in the area, with the southern end of the beach the usual spot for tan line free sunbathing.
For local beach safety and surf reports, visit the following websites:
Surf Safety & Etiquette
While beaches are rated for beginners, medium and advanced, the ratings are only a general indication and people unfamiliar with local conditions should check first before entering the water. If you are a beginner, make sure you surf on patrolled beaches. Lifeguards patrol the Surf Coast busiest beaches daily in peak holiday times and warmer months, usually from late November until the end of Easter. Visit Beach Safe for more information about patrolled beaches.
To keep safe, and get the most enjoyment out of surfing:
- Never surf alone: Rips are among the biggest dangers. A rip is a strong current running out to sea. Rips happen when water from broken waves flows back out to sea between sand banks. If caught in a rip, stay calm. Tread water or float. Once out past the breakers, swim parallel to shore and catch waves in. Or signal for help and wait.
- Sun protection: Australia has the world’s highest skin cancer rate. The sun’s ultra-violet radiation causes the most damage between 11am and 3pm, even on cooler days. Make sure you protect yourself – wear a long sleeves shirt, slop on 30+ water-resistant sunscreen regularly, wear a hat and sunglasses.
For more information about beach safety and conditions, visit the Beach Safe website.
Surf breaks are very friendly on the Surf Coast, but before heading for a surf, a quick brush-up on your surfers' etiquette is encouraged. Surfers' etiquette or 'code of conduct' has been developed with safety and respect in mind and covers the below points.
- Don’t drop in
This means the person closest to the breaking wave has the right to ride it. Wait your turn in the lineup. (As a beginner, avoid the lineup until you are confident you can do controlled take-offs). And don’t catch a wave and then turn straight back around.
- Paddle wide
Don’t paddle out to the line-up through the impact zone (where the waves are breaking and people are surfing) or where others are waiting to catch a wave. When paddling out, a surfer riding the wave always has right of way.
When catching a wave let others know which way you are going. Refrain from verbally abusing other surfers.
- Don’t throw your board
Hang on to your board. Learn to duck dive to get under waves. Make sure your leg rope is intact. Never throw your board – it could seriously injure someone.
- Respect the beach, the ocean and others
Respect the beach locals, don’t be a wave hog and respect more experienced surfers than yourself. Do your bit to keep the beach and ocean clean.
Surfers' code of conduct supplied by www.surfthecoast.com.au