Surfing. It conjures up images of exotic locales, palm-fringed shorelines, travel adventures and discovery and of a lifestyle that basks in the sun’s warming embrace. While Tahiti or The Solomons offer this dream in abundance, Sydney’s version of donning rubber or boardshorts has become a gladiatorial exercise in frustration and at times futility.
Welcome to the combative nature of urban surfing. Sydney style.
While that iconic movie, “The Endless Summer,” may echo in older memories, Sydney surfing is a juxtaposed conundrum of how far we’ve come and of how much we’ve lost. The simple pleasure gained from one good turn, a cover up, or the chance to meditate upon the day, belies the stark reality of crowded line-ups, localism, injuries, and competition for waves.
Where to surf in Sydney has become an endless question.
This article is a selection of alternative destinations of where to surf for the experienced local, the adventurous traveler, or even the novice seeking to tick the “surfed in Sydney” box.
Before joining the hordes at Cronulla, Bondi or Manly, that spot just around the corner may offer that elusive, meditative and downright soulful experience “The Endless Summer” once promised us. Right here in Sydney.
Garie Beach, Royal National Park
Garie is a great left-hand beach break that offers intermediate and experienced surfers solid surf up to two meters high in solid north to northeast swells.
Access is via the Royal National Park south of Cronulla and north of Wollongong. A park entry fee is required.
Feeling like a lunatic today? Perhaps you need to feel more aware of your own mortality?
A hardcore reef made of sharp rock. Extremely shallow, in the lineup it’s about two meters deep, then it sucks up on dry reef. A deposit of skin is the usual transaction required should you not judge the takeoff correctly.
This is a break in Sydney only experienced surfers ride.
Wanda Beach was the location for the 1980s coming-of-age movie, “Puberty Blues.” If seclusion from the Cronulla crowds is what you’re after, then Wanda and Green Hills are the closest you will get to it in Sydney.
A fun, peaky little beach break that works well in southeast and easterly swell. It’s a long walk from Wanda car park north of Cronulla, but worth it if you want to go where the surf is secluded.
The last stop on this journey is a stretch of beach for all level of surfer, and is where the long-running television program, “Home and Away”, is filmed.
This beach break has plenty of fun little waves. Should a long board be your style, then head to Kiddies’ Corner located at the southern end for some surf that’s protected from the cold southern swell and wind.
It’s also a gentle easy wave for you to introduce the kids to the simple joys of surfing.
A spot for all levels of surfer, Macca’s is located on the north side of the Tamarama rock platform.
Walk from Tamarama or down from the coastal walkway. Or you can paddle from Bronte if you’re feeling fit.
Hugely dependent on the shifting sands, this spot, whilst a little fickle, can be a lot of fun if you get it at the right time. Beware of the rocks.
If you make it out unscathed, it’s a short walk to a beer at the Bondi Icebergs, the southerly point of the bar and cafe district that is Bondi Beach.
When nowhere else is in Sydney working, and it’s small at either Manly or Dee Why, head to Curl Curl’s reliable sandbanks, and you should find a wave to satisfy your surfing appetite.
Whilst North Curl Curl can get crowded, a peak can be found somewhere along the beach offering fun, punchy waves that can hold a swell of up to two meters.
Of note is the cafe at the surf club offering some of the best bacon and egg rolls around.
Whale Beach is situated amongst some of the most expensive real estate in Sydney, and home to celebrities seeking a more sedate existence.
The Whale Beach Wedge is located at the northern corner of the beach: it’s an A-frame peak that forms when the swell hits a rock ledge and bounces back to create a solid, pitching wedge. A great wave, but where only experienced surfers dare to go due to the small take off zone.
On days when the swell is from the north or east, you can get good beach breaks just up from the infamous corner, that provide an easier, fun surf.
Located on the Northern Beaches and north of Dee Why, is the southeast facing Long Reef Beach. At Long Reef, when a good westerly wind combines with a clean southerly swell it can deliver some fairly consistent surf over a sand and rock shelf bottom.
Subject to some ferocious winds, it’s a beach popular with Sydney’s brigade kite surfers and hang gliders so keep your head down.
Surfing at Narrabeen requires the major virtue of patience. Whilst a spot of virtual seclusion is often to be found, the banks and swell rarely offer the perfect combination.
This results in frequent close-outs and rips. However, if you take the time to walk the 1,500 meters to the end, you can find that gem of a bank that may be entertaining only one or two other surfers.
North Narrabeen is a world-class left, frequently crowded, and best left to the locals and the pros.
Walk across the sands to that community institution, The Sands Hotel, if you’re thirsty on a hot summer’s surf day.
A small, scenic beach lined with palm trees and tucked away at the base of “the bends” between Newport and Avalon.
The secluded Bilgola Beach gives some protection from a southeast swell and as a result waves average less than 1.5 meters. While it can be hard to arrive there on a good day, when Bilgola does turn it on, it can be one of the most satisfying waves on the Northern Beaches.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2011. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.