For bodyboarders on the Gold Coast, dealing with crowds is a part of life.

It seems that whenever a swell rolls into the region, hordes of wave riders dust off their craft of choice and hit up the popular spots. The long-range groundswell generated by ex-TC Tuni recently was a perfect example, with more than 700 surfers at any given time at the world-famous Superbank (Snapper Rocks to Kirra).


However tension has now reached boiling point on the Glitter Strip, with the Gold Coast City Council announcing it will begin plans to build a $17 million artificial reef at Palm Beach. The council says the reef will serve as a new, high quality surf break, and will help prevent sand erosion along the stretch of coastline.

We spoke to two of the Gold Coast’s most renowned bodyboarders, Matt Lackey and Joe Clarke, to get their opinion on the topic:

Matt Lackey

“I think it is a good idea for sure. I mean, I don’t think it is going to be bodyboarding orientated, which would be nice. But I’m guessing it will be a user-friendly surfer reef, which is great because it will help spread out the crowds.”

“Realistically, it is crowded here no matter what. Just adding breaks isn’t going to change anything for bodyboarders. But you never know, something could go wrong and it becomes a slab, which would be awesome.”


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Matt Lackey escapes the crowds at Froggies, just around the Snapper Rocks. Photo Matt Schmidt

“I think the news media on TV and in newspapers are at fault. Whenever there is a swell they hype the hell out of it and everyone from everywhere comes down to get a part of it. They get on it and beat it up like it is going to be the swell of the year and makes everyone want to surf it. The points here are one of the best waves you will see but it is so crowded that it is wasted. It is chaos out there and it is ridiculous.”


So I’m all for them creating more breaks but I don’t really think it is going to change the crowd situation. It is what it is I guess. I actually rode my surfboard at Snapper (during the last swell) because when it’s like that, as soon as you are on a bodyboard, they are dropping in. They are dropping in on everybody. Unless it is solid and really slabbing you won’t get burnt out there (Snapper) but on a smaller swell like that, on the weekend, there is no point really. That’s why a lot of the bodyboarders take advantage of D’bah on those days.

Joe Clarke

I don’t know too much about it but if they can make a good wave then it would be amazing. It would probably get pretty heavily localised out there.

I they can do it right then it would be a great idea. But I think they should just lengthen all the rock walls (that are located on Palm Beach) to make wedges. Then you would have left and right wedges breaking all along that beach. I think it is pretty hard to make a reef work, just look at Narrowneck*.

Joe Clarke scoops into a barrel at South Stradbroke Island, located at the Northern end of the Gold Coast. Photo: Alex Ormerod

I steered clear of the waves during that last weekend of swell. Everyone I spoke to were whinging about the crowds. I just worked and surfed late in the afternoons.


*Narrowneck was an artificial reef constructed by the Gold Coast City Council in December 2000 to help prevent erosion and provide a surf break. 

The $2.5 million artificial reef was labelled a flop by many surfers, with the wave rarely breaking and the sandbags often being torn open and washed ashore during large swells.