How to learn to surf in a weekend on the Gold Coast
Clear your schedule, we’re chasing waves!
Nowhere is Australia’s iconic surf culture celebrated like it is on the Gold Coast. It’s embedded into everyday life and the Gold Coast’s perfect point breaks, subtropical climate and 57km of spectacular coastline make it the perfect playground for pro surfers and those wanting to learn to surf.
If that’s you and learning to surf has been on your bucket list for a while now (let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be able to ride waves like Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush?), it’s time to pack your bags and dive head first into the Gold Coast’s surf scene.
Here’s our ultimate guide to learning to surf on the Gold Coast in one weekend:
12PM: LOCATION CHECK
Get an early mark from the boss (we all know you deserve it!), grab your friends and pile into a Kombi van. Hit the road and head to the Southern Gold Coast. This is where you’ll find world-class breaks, consistent swell and spectacular beaches, which is why this 16km stretch of coastline from Burleigh to Coolangatta was named the 8th World Surfing Reserve.
Park up at Rainbow Bay, a small beach wedged in between Snapper Rocks and Kirra, and watch the surfers carve it up on Australia’s longest point break, the Superbank. Home to the annual Quiksilver & Roxy Pro, surfers from around the world flock to this part of the Gold Coast to chase the perfect turquoise barrels peeling their way from Snapper Rocks to Kirra Beach.
Hot tip: Go for a walk around the headland and up to Point Danger where you’ll find long-time local fave, Café Dbar, serving delicious food with a side of ah-mazing views. Short on time? The takeaway poke bowls are to die for!
2PM: TIME TO GET WET
By now you’ll be frothin’ to get in the water. But first, it’s important to choose the right surf school for you. Book in for a lesson and you’re ready to go.
Slide into your swimwear, slap on some sunscreen and grab a ‘foamie’. After a quick warm up on the beach, your coach will teach you about beach safety and the conditions on the day before taking you through the techniques. Lying belly-down on your board, learn how to position your body, paddle and stand up (striking a mean ninja-pose along the way!).
After a few dry rounds on the sand, put theory into practice and hit the waves. At this stage, you’ll be surfing in waist-deep white water with your coach by your side, gently pushing you onto the waves. Once you stand up on your board for the first time, you’ll know what all the fuss is about.
Hot tip: If you’re serious about learning to surf, invest in the right surf clothes. Girls, a onesie rash vest or one-piece swimsuit will save your bikini bottoms going missing. Boys, rash shorts will save you smearing copious amounts of Vaseline on your legs after a surf.
6PM: POST-SURF HANGOUTS
After a day at the beach, head to the local’s favourite post-surf hangout: Tupe-Aloha. Step through the doors of this heaving Mexican den and take a moment to adjust your eyes to the gleeful ’70s quirk and kitsch scattered around the place.
You go for the tasty Mexican food, wicked cocktails and tiki vibes but you stay because of the eccentric staff. They are as much part of the place as the colourful artwork adorning the walls and are incredibly welcoming. You instantly feel at home as you sink into one of the Acapulco lounge chairs and sit back. Now you’re starting to realise why this joint is so popular.
For a knock-out cocktail, order the Zombie Skull Puncher – served flaming with cinnamon sparkles and all – or the Crazy Little Coconut which nicely complements the Mexico-meets-Hawaii feels.
Next, stack your table with a mix of your favourite tacos, burritos and snacks like the uber popular jalapeno poppers or Hokie Pokie (fresh, raw tuna with soy, wasabi mayo and ginger). And don’t forget to order a side of the curly fries. They are perfectly crispy and dusted with just the right amount of salt and a little hint of chilli.
Hot tip: At Tupe-Aloha, Taco Tuesdays (three tacos for just $10) is followed by 2-4-1 Burrito Wednesdays. Tuck in!
Where: 1/1 Douglas Street, Kirra
When: Open Monday to Friday from 3pm – late; Saturday and Sunday from 12pm – late.
6AM: SURF LESSON #2
The early bird… &%$@. Truth is, if you really want to learn to surf, you’ll have to give up those cosy Saturday mornings spent in bed. I’m sorry. But as inhumane as it sounds now, give it a couple of weeks and the thought of your arms piercing through the glassy water, the sun shining on your back and perfect turquoise waves curling in front of you will get you out of bed in no time.
Continuing where you’ve left off the day before, your second surf lesson will focus on perfecting your moves with a whole lot more practice in the water. Feel the wave roll in and learn when to paddle for it and how to stand up in one smooth motion.
After a while, you’ll start to get the hang of it and while it’s exhausting, the thrill of riding across the wave will keep you going and put a big, fat grin on your face.
8AM: REFUEL AT CAFÉ 28
It’s fair to say, you’ve earned your breakfast. But Café 28 isn’t your everyday breakfast spot.
Part of the Boardriders concept store by Quiksilver, Café 28 is the place where you top up on some real-good caffeine (an artisan blend from Syndicate Espresso), order a mean breakfast (that’s looking at you, breakfast burrito) and marvel at over 500 neatly stacked surfboards of all shapes and sizes while you wait. You can even get a new hairdo or beard trim from the onsite Uppercut barber. I told you this was no ordinary café.
Grab a seat at one of the wooden high tables or sink into the comfy lounge out the front. You’ll be surrounded by local surfer dudes talking shop about the morning’s waves while the latest surf comp plays on a big screen and a pleasant coffee scent fills your nostrils.
For a quick fix, you can’t go past the $10 egg and bacon roll and coffee combo. Feeling rather hungry? My tip is the breakfast burrito. Loaded with black beans, fried egg, avo and cheese and coupled with one of the protein-based smoothies from the menu, this is the perfect post-surf feast.
Hot tip: Like the good vibes? Come back on Friday or Saturday nights when Café 28 turns into a bar with live music entertainment.
Where: The Strand, 72-80 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
When: Open Sunday to Thursday 7am-5pm; Friday and Saturday 7am-9pm. Boardriders is open from 9am-6pm, 7 days a week.
2PM: MATCH YOUR BOD TO THE RIGHT BOARD
After your first couple of lessons, you’ll have the basics down pat and you’ll be ready to upgrade to a ‘real’ surfboard. To find the right surfboard for your shape, follow the road along
To find the right surfboard for your shape, follow the road along Currumbin Creek to Mt Woodgee Surfboards where you’ll meet some of the world’s most experienced surfboard shapers who have been crafting boards since 1974. Back then, they were shaping out of a small bay underneath their old farmhouse on top of Mt Woodgee, the namesake mountain which is still within sight of today’s headquarters.
At Mt Woodgee Surfboards, you’ll find yourself at the beating heart of Australia’s surfboard industry. Together, the resident shapers have more than 250 years’ experience and it’s their passion that keeps them crafting boards for pros, mates and weekend warriors like yourself.
These guys are experts in matching your bod to the right board and will spend hours getting to know you and your surf style. That means, going for a surf together is mandatory when signing up to get a surfboard fit to your favourite wave.
To give your board the extra edge, make an appointment with Mt Woodgee’s Willy Nicholls (and his assistant dog, Ruby) who is one of the world’s last and most talented spray surfboard artists. His designs are mind-blowing – check them out at @willynicholls_artist.
Hot tip: Watch this space. The guys from Mt Woodgee Surfboards have plans to open the Surfboard Workers Club – a full-blown co-op space with room for retail, a coffee bar, casual dining, workshops and displays – later this year.
Where: 2 Stewart Rd, Currumbin Waters
When: Open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm; Saturday 9am-4pm.
6PM: DINE IN A LAND OF PLENTY
Nothing stresses me more than planning a dinner with my closest friends. Where do I even start? You need to choose from a long list of cuisines: Mexican? Italian? Japanese? And then there are dietary requirements to consider.
That’s why I love Palm Beach Collective. Enter the transformed post office and to your right, you’ll find five resident kitchens lining the brick wall and pumping out delicious Mexican, Italian, American, Japanese and Modern Australian dishes. But you don’t have to decide right here, right now. One of the friendly waiters that buzz about the place will guide you to your table and kindly hand you a collective menu showcasing all that’s on offer from the five kitchens (and the bar, I shall add). Flipping through the pages is like taking a seat in the hot air balloon in Michael Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days.
I highly recommend trying the pork and prawn wontons from Umami, the Japanese outlet. Served in an Asian mushroom, soy and ginger sauce, they must be the most flavoursome wontons I have ever tasted. And you can’t go past the sticky lamb ribs from Calavera. Sink your teeth into the perfectly crispy chilli glaze on the outside that is followed by a melt-in-your-mouth, slow-cooked goodness on the inside that will propel you into foodie heaven.
Palm Beach Collective is the perfect union between the varied food offering and atmosphere of a night market and the convenience of table service and a fully stocked bar at your favourite restaurant. And dare I say, it’s saved many an argument between lovers or friends over what to choose for dinner.
Hot tip: The best part is their special menu for those with dietary requirements (yep, that’s me!). These guys really know how to keep everyone in your posse happy.
Where: 1128 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach
When: Open 7 days from 7am – 11am and 12pm – late.
6AM: THE EARLY BIRD… AGAIN
New day, new beginnings. And when you’re learning to surf, that does mean getting up early (again). Welcome to the new you.
Meet your coach for your final surf lesson and get the low down on how to assess the surf conditions. Learn how to spot a rip current, read the waves and most importantly, choose the right wave to paddle for. Your coach will also run you through the all-important surf etiquette so that you’re all set to #keepitchilled in the water.
Then it’s time to head out into the surf (if you’re ready and the conditions good). You’ll be chasing waves like a pro by now, watching the set roll in and giving it your all as you paddle onto the wave, stand up and strike a pose as you ride the green water. Well, to be honest, this may be a little lofty but remember: practice makes perfect.
10AM: SURF STYLING
Looking the part is half the battle, right? Luckily, I know just the place to find the latest hand-crafted sunglasses, perfect-length denim skirts and locally designed swimwear. Burleigh’s James Street.
Here, individuality and creativity ooze out of every store up and down the street and the bodies of passers-by are clad in the latest op-shop treasures up-styled with unique designer wear.
Start off slow by ordering a freshly squeezed fruit juice (topped with a slice of fruit or two) from the juice bar adjacent to the Fishmonger and get used to your surroundings. Then check out the eclectic mix of boutiques and shops – the choice is endless.
Browse through the latest playsuits and dress styles at EMTE and scan the racks at Rhythm for stylish beach shorts and bikinis, before gazing at glass-prints of ocean sunrises and perfectly carved waves at local photographer Sean Scott’s Art Gallery (which also stocks Valley Eyewear’s hot designer sunglasses that even Chris Hemsworth can’t resist).
Hot tip: Every first and third Sunday of the month, add on another stop at The Village Markets that turn Burleigh State High School into a field of colourful boutique market stalls with local designers and craftspeople showcasing their goods – from hand-crafted wooden longboards to carefully designed swimwear.
Where: James Street, Burleigh Heads
When: Open 7 days. Check individual stores for their opening times.
12PM: SEASIDE LUNCH
End your weekend in style and book a table at Burleigh’s Rick Shores. A steady favourite since opening its doors in 2016, Rick Shores plates up delicious Asian-fusion cuisine with a side of sweeping beach views.
Perched at the bottom of Burleigh’s Hill, you’re so close to the water’s edge that you can almost feel the waves lapping at your toes and the salt-scented sea breeze kiss your skin. Watch surfers carve it up on the waves in front of you as you sit back, sip on a glass of pinot gris and quietly think ‘Life’s good. Really good.’
And you haven’t even tasted the food. Hailing from some of Australia’s best South-East Asian restaurants, the chefs created a menu that will make your taste buds dance and beg for more. From bar snacks like their signature Ricks’ Fried (Moreton Bay) Bug Roll with gem lettuce and sriracha to more substantial mains like the Yellow King Prawn Curry, best suited to share.
Hot tip: Pack your swimwear. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to go for a dip after gazing at the perfectly turquoise waters in between bites.
Where: Shop 3, 43 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads
When: Open Tuesday to Saturday from 12pm and Sunday from 11:30am.
4PM: TIME TO WASH DOWN THE SALT (ON YOUR TONGUE)
After endless hours spent in the water and learning how to surf on the Gold Coast, it’s now time to kick back and end the weekend with an ice-cold beer. You deserve it, my friend!
While there are plenty of craft beer breweries up and down the Gold Coast, Balter Brewing Co. is THE place to hang for surfing dudes like you. Here, you’ll get to sit back, ponder over the weekend’s waves and wash the salt off your tongue with a refreshing XPA. Aaahhh!
The best part? You might get the chance to meet world surf champs Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson who own the brewery with their surf mates and can often be found manning the taps.
Hot tip: Visit on a Friday or Saturday and tuck into the deliciousness served by a rotating line-up of food vans parked on site.
Where: 14 Traders Way, Currumbin
When: Fridays from 3pm-9pm; Saturdays and Sundays 1pm-8pm.
Never want the weekend to end? Continue the dream of an endless summer with this Local’s guide to the Southern Gold Coast.