The Gold Coast's Bank Making Machine

Craig Murch

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Updated 1127d ago

We're all aware that the sand responsible for shaping our favourite beachbreak peaks comes and goes like the wind. Storms shift the contours of the seabed for better or for worse and we're left with something a little different the next time a favourable swell rolls in.

So what if there was sand-shifting machine patrolling your coast and whipping up banks at will? Well, you'd probably be wise to keep an eye on it. Take note from a few Gold Coast surfers who tracked Danish hopper dredger, “Balder R” while she sat offshore in Surfer's Paradise.

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

"With each dumping of sand creates short-term, wedge-type banks," photographer Aaron Pierce tells MSW. "Long term it has actually created some amazing outer sandbanks when the surf has some size in it that break for 100m. When there are waves you can be sure to find a group of surfers huddling closely to the boat waiting for it to leave to get an hour of dredging nuggets.

"The initial sand shifts fairly quickly but there is always a bit of a bank left for a few days before Mother Nature sorts it all out. Unfortunately onshore winds have plagued the time the boat has been here but there has been a few nice mornings of offshore goodness."

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

Of course though, the Balder R's purpose ain't to pump up temporary sandbanks so Gold Coast residents can get barrelled. Nope, she's been sat in shallow waters spraying sand more to the purpose of a repair job.

"Apparently mother nature has taken all the sand away on the glorious golden sand beaches of the Gold Coast," Aaron continues. "The Balder R is a 111m boat that can relocate up to 400,000 cubic meters of material a week. The whole idea behind it is to build up the sand on the beaches and outer banks so when the big storms come in the waves break offshore, lessening the possibility of eroding million dollar pieces of land. It's also to increase the width of the beach from Main to Palm for the Commonwealth Games so people can enjoy a slightly wider beach at high tide."

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

Still though, while crowds of locals and tourists alike gathered to watch a seemingly beached vessel shoot 80m sand rainbows into the sky, there were those who set themselves the task of reaching coveted new banks much further from shore.

"There was a couple of days of a solid 6ft south swell that produced some Indo-type lines too though. Only a few decided to give it a nudge paddling against the southerly rip and even less were successful. As it was breaking fairly quickly with a fierce rip, a ski doing step-offs would have been perfect for the hundreds of empty barrels that peeled off.

"I honestly couldn't believe my eyes seeing these empty waves relentlessly barrelling. I can't wait to get more decent swell and see how the $13.9 million sandbanks will perform. I tipped my hat at the Balder R today as it dumped its last sand, not to be seen again for another 15 years."

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce

© 2020 - Aaron Pierce


Craig Murch

MSW Content Editor