Windsurfing in South East Queensland

This page documents what windsurfing is like in South East Queensland, where to go, what to do, who to contact, etc. I'll probably miss lots of things out, so if you have any updates, let me know, and I'll add it in here. Likewise, if I get anything wrong, let me know too.

Places to Go

Okay, so where to go windsurfing. Or, more to the point, where do I go windsurfing. First up, I'm not world champion class as most Aussies seem to be, so the places I go to and the wind strengths I'm happy with seem to make other folks raise their eyebrows and snort.

Caloundra - Golden Beach

This is my favourite spot by a country mile. Golden Beach at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast is basically the top end of Pumicestone Passage, the narrow strip of sea between Bribie Island and the mainland. It is quite shallow, has very low boating traffic, yet in a southerly through easterly to northerly can offer at least 1km of straight line windsurfing (if you want to do that).

Caloundra is about 60 minutes from the northern suburbs of Brisbane, or about 75 minutes from the city centre, by road, sticking to the speed limits. It's on the southern end of the Sunshine coast, and is very much a holiday resort and retirement town. Golden Beach is on the southern side.

The main thing to watch here is the strong tide (water rushes out of the passage as the tide goes out, and rushes in when the tide comes in), making conditions away from high and low tide a bit awkward for the beginner. Fall off, and you could be 100m away before you can get back on again. The other thing to watch are the sand banks under the water. Many a planing windsurfer has come to grief by not realising how shallow the water is in some parts. Luckily the water is quite clear, so it's not too difficult to work out what is or isn't shallow.

You can hire equipment, and get instruction, from Golden Beach Hire who are positioned on the beach most days of the week during the season. And because the road runs alongside the beach, next to a small grass strip most of the length of the beach, rigging and parking is very easy. Only when the tide is out do the sandy beaches and sand banks become a nuisance; you have to walk a little further out.

The photo of Golden Beach here was taken on Saturday 28th November 2003. Wind was only about 5 to 10 knots, a lovely weekend as the Bureau of Meteorology called it. Not for windsurfers though, which is why so few were out there, and only those with the wide boards and huge sails actually managed to get planing.

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Gold Coast - Broadwater

I've been spending a lot more time on the Broadwater in the last few years (written early 2008), simply because the Bruce Highway north of Brisbane to Caloundra has represented a car park due to the massive amount of building work going on between the city limits and Caboolture. And also, the Broadwater has serviced very well by the weather station at the Gold Coast Seaway spit, so no averaging or guessing as to wind or weather conditions is required. Plus, no massive tidal flows to contemplate.

The spot I go to, and most windsurfers also seem to be attracted to, is a tiny little carpark at the end of what is basically the Smith Street Motorway coming from the Pacific Motorway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. So when the wind is good, or it is holiday season, there is usually nowhere to park. This is a well known top windsurfing spot, yet Gold Coast City Council do nothing to encourage its use as such - which is a shame, as the alternative is parking on the Gold Coast Highway and lugging kit 400metres.

As for windsurfing itself, be aware of low tide! Twice I've clipped rocks which are just centimetres below the water, and lost the board fin in both instances. Apart from this there is a long list of other hazards:

If you can put up with all of the above, it is a nice spot. A SE wind crosses over Palazo Versace, scrubbing about 5-10knots off the speed measured at the Seaway Spit. However, a NE wind is only a few knots lower than the measured speed at the Seaway.

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Another popular windsurfing spot, but as it is on the open bay, with big waves at times, I haven't been game to go out here yet. But you'll see it mentioned in the Windsurfing Queensland website as a frequent spot for their meetings.

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Another popular windsurfing spot, and the best one that is closest to Brisbane. The major downside here are the tides. High tide means easy launching, low tide means a 500m walk from the beach to the waters edge - and it is all muddy. Most windsurfers tend to launch from the rock wall that makes up the Manly marina complex but that means clambering down over big rocks just to get to the water. And as with Redcliffe, its open bay, more or less, and with big winds come big waves which I don't really have confidence to tackle yet.

In saying all this, I have windsurfed once at Manly, when the tide was in, so launching from the beach and staying in the small bay next to the marina. Was pretty nice, but then an Easterly onshore wind made it so.

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Wellington Point

I haven't windsurfed at Wellington Point yet, and I don't think I will do any time soon either. It is more popular in winter time (off season) when we have Westerlies, as Wellington Point as a large sand bar enclosing a bay that faces towards the west. Which means windsurfers of all capabilities don't face the danger of being swept out into the larger Moreton Bay.

Locationwise, Wellington Point is just around the small bay from the Manly Marina and windsurfing spot I mentioned earlier, as you can see if you zoom out the location map in the references below.

Now I haven't been here yet simply because parking is a nuisance, rigging space is awkward, and the Redlands Shire council have done little to make it amenable to windsurfers and other similar water users. There is a boat ramp at one side of the Point, but windsurfers tend to want to use the other side so they can take advantage of the sand bar. Plus, the spot is really popular with picnicers, so parking at busy periods can be really difficult.

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Lake Cootharaba

My final windsurfing spot in SE Queensland (although I'm sure there are lots more). Lake Cootharaba is north of Noosa, and is about 150 minutes drive from Brisbane. So going here means going for a weekend, as it is a lot of driving just for a few hours on the water. But then Noosa is a nice spot to stay in, so why not make a trip of it, especially if a windy weekend is forecast.

I've windsurfed here a few times, launching each time at Boreen Point, the main and most usable access to the lake. It's excellent, nice shallow lake across its entire length and breadth, and well served by winds of all directions - as long as they blow. It's probably not so great for learning, as if you fall off your board, and stand up in the metre deep water, you will realise that the lake bottom is very very muddy - and soft mud too.

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Clubs and Things

Windsurfing Queensland is the local club, mostly organising races and such like for their membership. I used to be a member, but let it lapse, as there was nothing on offer for a learning/improving windsurfer like me, nor did I feel there was much encouragement to persevere. Oh well, maybe things will change. Interesting, especially at a time when there is a feeling that interest in windsurfing is diminshing world wide. There is a mailing list and a YahooGroup which is open to all.

However, on a brighter note, the UKSA have opened a training centre at Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. It's early days yet, but maybe there might be some initiative to allow the local non-hotshots to participate and actually improve our skills also.

Apart from this, the only other training or similar on offer in South East Queensland is by Warren Francis of Sailboarding Safaris. I've never been on any of Warren's courses, so can't comment on what they are like.

Hope you found this information useful. Philip Smith - 02 January 2008