Did you know the first event of the modern world surfing tour was held at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast? The Stubbies Surf Classic took place in 1977 and was won by local surfing icon, Michael Peterson. Snapper Rocks has hosted the first tour event of the World Surf League for many years and Gold Coasters have flocked to cheer on our home-grown champions.

Our pumping waves and stoke for surfing has fuelled some exciting initiatives that enhance our city as a centre of surfing.


In less than a century, the Gold Coast has evolved from a string of seaside villages to one of the most famous holiday destinations in the world. Much of that growth and success has been built on our reputation as a surf city.

By 1917, Queensland's southern coastal strip was being described as a 'surfer's paradise' and in 1933, the township known as Elston was officially renamed Surfers Paradise.

The growth in the popularity of surfing during the 1950s and 1960s went hand in hand with the development of the Gold Coast. From Southport to Coolangatta, holiday houses, motels and guesthouses were built to accommodate the droves of visitors wanting to enjoy our coast.

The 1970s saw the development of a strong surfing industry on the Gold Coast, and by 1977, the city was ready to take centre stage when it hosted the Stubbies Surf Classic at Burleigh Heads.

This was the first event of the modern world surfing tour. Local surfing legend Michael Peterson took out the inaugural event and is now immortalised in bronze and granite at Kirra Beach.

Nowadays it's not surprising to paddle out alongside a world champion at our renowned surf breaks and the city regularly hosts national and international professional surfing contests.

Note: images sourced from City Libraries' Local Studies Collection, Picture Gold Coast

Supporting our surf scene

We take surfing seriously. In fact, we're so serious about the sport we've become the first local government in the world to formally recognise the importance of surfing to our community in a Surf Management Plan. The plan aims to protect and enhance the Gold Coast's surf amenity.

Whether you ride a short board, mal, or SUP, here's what you need to know. The Plan aims to:

  • educate about local surf etiquette and surf safety
  • manage beaches using world's best practice
  • collaborate with the community to manage our surf spots.

Surfer or not, we'd love you to check out the work we're doing by downloading our Surf Management Plan.

We are a World Surfing Reserve

Between Burleigh Point and Snapper Rocks is where the magic happens. At least, that was the part of the coastline declared a World Surfing Reserve in 2015.

The Gold Coast joins an honour roll of other renowned World Surf Reserves including:

  • Malibu, California
  • Ericeira, Portugal
  • Manly Beach, Australia
  • Santa Cruz, California
  • Huanchaco, Peru
  • Bahia Todos Santos, Baja California Mexico
  • Punta de Lobos, Chile.

Find out more about our World Surfing Reserve.

Surf etiquette

Scoring waves should be fun! Like any sport, there are rules that surfers need to abide by to ensure they are safe and everyone gets a ride.

Common sense and kindness go a long way, particularly in a line-up, but you should also familiarise yourself with accepted local surf etiquette before paddling out.

Surf to your ability

  • Take lessons! It's not as easy as the pros make it look.
  • Do not push learners into the path of an oncoming surfer.
  • As a guide:
    - Learners – up to waist height, white water and spilling waves.
    - Intermediate – waist to shoulder height, spilling waves.
    - Advanced – shoulder to overhead, hollow/dumping waves.


  • If multiple surfers are paddling for the same wave, the surfer closest to the breaking wave has right of way.
  • Don't drop in! If a surfer is already riding the wave, they have priority.
  • Do not paddle around or inside a surfer who is waiting in line for the next wave.
  • Do not turn and catch a wave on the inside of a surfer already riding or paddling onto a wave.

Paddling out

Stay wide or stay inside if in the white water.


Which way are you going? Left or right?

Leg ropes

  • Wear one! A loose board can be lethal.
  • Don't let go of your board!

Other craft (stand up paddleboards, hydrofoils, windsurfers, etc.)

  • Be careful around others, they may not know how your craft operates.
  • Surf within your ability.
  • Do not learn near other surfers, even if you know how to surf another craft.

Relax and enjoy the water!