How To Build a Superbank

Matt Rode

by on

Updated 218d ago

In the beginning, there was Kirra. There was Snapper Rocks and Rainbow Bay and Greenmount too, but Kirra was where the magic happened—where azure barrels drained endlessly between the groynes, warm and clean and grinding below sea level for luminaries such as Rabbit Bartholomew, Michael Peterson, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, and pretty much the entire world tour until the mid-1990s.

Then something happened. In 1995, the Queensland government decided they needed to do something about the coastal erosion that was threatening multi-million dollar beach front homes, while also keeping the Tweed Rivermouth clear for shipping. So they came up with a scheme to pump sand out of Tweed River, in the hopes that the sand would be redistributed by the prevailing currents and build up the northern beaches that had been receding at an alarming rate.


As it turned out, their plan worked—really well. Too well, in fact, if you were a fan of Kirra. Within a few seasons, so much sand had drifted between the fabled groynes that Kirra Beach extended past where the lineup had once been. There was literally dry sand where the wave used to break—and just like that the legendary Kirra was gone.

Fortunately, a couple kilometres down the coast—or up the point, depending on your perspective—the complete opposite was happening. Instead of a wave being destroyed, one was being created—and when the sand had finally settled in 2007, filling in the gaps between the various points, that new wave was one of the longest and best on the planet. One single, continuous sandbar now ran from the top of Snapper Rocks, all the way through Rainbow Bay and Greenmount and down to the Big Groyne at the top of Kirra, creating a 2000-metre wave that quickly became known as the Superbank.

Of course, the Superbank wasn’t always super, and it certainly wasn’t always possible to connect a wave from behind the rocks to the bottom of the bar. In fact, that feat has only been accomplished a handful of times in the past 15 years. But more often than not it produces world-class waves ranging from playful, seemingly endless runners to dredging, backless barrels.

Parko shooting through the masses.

Parko shooting through the masses.

© 2020 - Juan Medina.

Located in the Aussie surf mecca of Coolangatta, the Superbank quickly became the world’s most crowded and competitive lineup, and the Snapper Rocks section soon began playing host to the first event of the annual world tour schedule.

A new generation of local shredders—including “Coolie Kids” Parkinson, Fanning, and Dean Morrison—established themselves at the top of the pecking order, but on any given day the average talent level in the water was as high as anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, the Snapper Rocks Pro quickly grew into one of the biggest events in surfing, picking up sponsorship from the Queensland government itself.

Mick's stomping ground.

While the 2020 event at Snapper Rocks has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, the local crowd certainly won’t be staying home when cyclones and southeasterly swells start to light up the local bank. The first proper swell of the season already hammered the coast in late February, courtesy of Cyclone Uesi, with the point’s various sections offering up magic to those who could handle the current. Even Kirra, the sacrificial lamb down at the bottom of the bank, had its moment, making a rare appearance and offering up nostalgic slabs for the old crew, as it tends to do every couple of years.

Yet another cyclone is set to send swell toward the Superbank later this week, with Gretel currently moving southeast and into the Queensland swell window. Meanwhile, a few kilometres down the coast in the mouth of Tweed River, dredged sand continues to spew into the ocean, feeding what is arguably the best man-made disaster that surfing has ever seen.

SWELL CHART: Snapper Rocks

Cover shot by Juan Medina