Is The Central Coast Now Better At Surfing Than The Gold Coast?

There’s a shift in Australian pro surfing, let’s check it out.

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Yesterday, just like the day before, and the day before that, I woke up at 6am, made myself a bowl of Coco Pops, and logged on to the WSL website, where I stared dead-eyed waiting for March 11 when the Championship Tour will begin once again on the Gold Coast. But yesterday, crunching away and clicking around the WSL rankings and John John Florence’s profile, like I assume we all do most mornings, I realised something that stopped me mid-Coco Pop crunch: There are now more Central Coast surfers on the Men’s CT than there are Gold Coast surfers.

Which made me wonder, “Has the Gold Coast been dethroned as the most elite surfing zone in Australia?”

For the past decade and a half, you could argue that the Gold Coast has led the charge in cultivating Australian surfing’s most elite and high profile surfers. For a period there in the 80s and early 90s, Sydney was the centre of Australian surfing success, with World Champs like Tom Carroll, Damien Hardman, Barton Lynch, and even Martin Potter (kind of!) all coming out of the Northern Beaches. The decades before that, for the most part, were very much a long fabled arm wrestle between Sydney and the Goldy. Splashes elsewhere, but Sydney vs the Goldy was where the battle lay.

But in 2018 there will be just two surfers from the Gold Coast on the Men’s CT – World Champions Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, two of the region’s greatest of all time; shit, two of surfing in general’s greatest of all time, both of whom are over 35 years age and facing questions of retirement.

In comparison, the Central Coast will have three surfers on the men’s CT in 2018. Top five finisher Matt Wilkinson, children’s book author Ace Buchan and tour rookie Wade Carmichael. That’s not to mention surfing’s most high-profile and successful professional surf coach in Glenn Hall also hailing from the Cenny.

When we tally up the surfers on the ladies’ side the Gold Coast, of course, gets to claim Steph Gilmore (though, do they really? Her WSL profile states she’s from Kingscliff, which is basically Byron, which is basically the mid-north Coast, which is basically the Central Coast, no?) while Keely Andrew adds her name as another member to team Central Coast. Tyler Wright and Sally FItz bump the the NSW South Coast into the mix too.

Obviously, when we compare the competitive surfing histories of the regions, the Goldy wins out with multiple World Titles and some of surfing’s most revolutionary and high profile pro surf icons coming out of Coolangatta, while the Central Coast’s icons before the WSL era have been more of the celebrated, blue collar hard charging type as well as various cult heroes. And Shane Powell.

But the past is in the past. Today, there are more surfers at surfing’s elite level from the Central Coast than there are from the Gold Coast.

And what of the future?

Well, 2016 Women’s World Junior Champ (who finished 5th in the recent 2017 Junior Title, our best result) Macy Callaghan, who is our best prospect of winning the QS this year, comes from Avoca. While our highest placed finishers in the junior men’s are split with the Gold Coast’s Liam O’Brien and the Central Coast’s Sandon Whitaker, both coming ninth. Point once more to the Cenny.

So what do you think? Is Avoca the new Snapper? Copa Cobana the new Burleigh Heads?
Is the Central Coast now Australia’s no.1 breeding ground for Championship Tour level surfing talent? Or do the points still reign supreme? And what about the rugged coast of southern NSW or south west WA? Which Aus region is tops now? Is this too many questions to end an article? And where did I leave my keys?

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Mike Jennings