Greg Redgard, high tide slash at Burkitts Reef, Bargara. photo by Paul

 

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Burkitts & Neilsons Park, Bargara Queensland Australia

Latitude: 24°S              

Aspect:  east           

Foundation: boulder field

Wave climate: estimate, 35% of days greater than knee height, 4 days per year overhead (Qld COPE)

Swell direction: predominantly east (Qld COPE data), narrow swell window

Prevailing wind pattern: morning calm, afternoon sou'east seabreeze

Tidal range: over 3.5m during king tides

1.) Burkitts Reef

The world first ‘planning authority approved' surfing reef enhancement was at Burkitts Reef, Bargara and built in February 1997. In summary: reef works removed hazards, extended the length of ride and improved wave breaking shape. This is not an artificial surfing reef, it was a renovation, a remodelling of an existing reef.

Bargara is not known for consistent quality waves.   Lack of swell is the main issue.  The swell window is just too narrow. To reach Bargara waves must squeeze between Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef.  Resulting surf is always smaller and less consistent than the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.  Mean wave height is below waist height and winds predominantly sou’east trade. However the water is invitingly warm and there are enough waves to justify surfing as an afternoon sport at the local schools.  Bargara is unique in one aspect, a 3.5 metre tidal range, which became a huge advantage in the renovation works. 

Burkitt’s had previously been recognised as “iffy”, a barely-surfable-high-tide-only-sorta-spot-only-IF-conditions were right.   But it was always a swell magnet. Just offshore, a deepwater reef bombora (“bommie”) acts like an antennae, collecting and focusing all available swell. The empowered and amplified waves that hit the inner reefs are always slightly larger than nearby beachbreaks. The other advantage of Burkitt’s is the point like righthanders are brushed side-on with the predominant sou’east tradewind. The seafloor and shoreline of Burkitt’s is a boulder field: black, rounded and of varied size. Prior to the renovation Burkitt’s had some handicaps: obtruding boulder hazards and a deep gutter that split most waves into two unconnected sections. It was a frustrating wave that chewed boards and chomped on fins. 

In 1982 Greg Redgard (on behalf of the local community based Baragara Boardriders Association), first approached the government authorities seeking permission to “breakdown” the hazardous boulders and remove several lengths of discarded railway track(!!). His first application was rejected. After years of persistent lobbying, Greg finally received formal permission from both the Beach Protection Authority of Queensland and the Burnett Shire Council.  Motivated by a desire for cleaner tubes, longer rides and safer wipeouts, the 17 year quest of Australian surfer Greg Redgard finally came to fruition.

Working at low tide only, for two four hour sessions, spread over two days, Redgard directed a Kobelco hydraulic excavator, a track machine with extendable digging arm, to first split boulders and then to relocate boulders, at the lower edge of the intertidal zone - in and around, what would later be the seafloor of the wave breaking zone at high tide. 

The excavator “flattened” at least a dozen protruding bedrock hazards, and “filled-in” the big gutter that had previously split the wave into two sections, creating a smoother grade seafloor with less “surface irregularity”.  A simple cut and fill, relocating insitu materials, with no lasting impact on the environment.

  

The reef renovation was a success, because a small wave climate and a large tidal range, allowed the works to be enacted cheaply, efficiently and affectively.  The total project cost under US$5000, funded by Redgard, the Bargara Boardriders Association and local business donations.

 

Redgard offers video footage of before/after as proof of the seafloor surgery’s success.  With a bit of swell and a high tide, the righthander now offers a smooth peeling lip with some barrel action.  This is a huge improvement on before. In the past, surfers attempting to ride the point had to manoeuvre through boulder booby-traps that caused sections to flutter, splutter and shut down.  The project is supported by local parents and teachers who note the improved safety factor. Face-first wipeouts are a whole lot safer now the seafloor is clear of treacherous outcrops.

How many days per year are surfable? Local surfers estimate 30 days per year, whereas before the spot was surfed on only a handfull of days per year, by only a few surfers.

Will the reef stay in shape? Or will the next big cyclone rearrange the boulder field. Boulders fields are dynamic: fixed yet flexible. Redgards plan has always included regular maintenance and upkeep like any other sporting field. He also plans to further improve the pointbreak in stages. This is not an artificial surfing reef, it was a renovation, a remodelling of an existing reef.

Redgards Reef Renovating formula:   

(small waves + large tides)  x (low tide access)  =  (minimal $$ + high tide surfing)

 

Conclusion:  don’t be limited by budget constraints, small strategic works can provide permanent wave breaking improvements.

 

by Andrew Pitt (B.Larch UNSW) © 2012

Kobelco hydraulic excavator: shirfting boulders at low tide. photo Greg Redgard

 

Greg Redgard, low tide at Burkitts Reef, Bargara. photo by Bruiser

 

2.) Neilsons Park, Bargara

The righthander that peels off the southern point of Neilsons Park Beach was once known as 'Boneyards'. The boulder field, similar to Burkitts had several large protruding boulders on the inside section.  Recognising this as a hazard to local surfers,in 2008 the President of Pacifque Boardriders Association, Keith Drinkwater organised an hydraulic excavator to work at low tide over 2 days and relocate the threatening boulders. Local surfers suggest the following outcomes:

1.) the wave breaking line/zone is the same

2.) though the face of breaking waves is smoother and better shaped

2.) there are no hazardous boulders dissecting the lineup

3.) the wave is now surfable at a lower tide, whereas previously a higher tide was required to cover the hazardous boulders

4.) 'The Point' is now a safer, more consistent break with better quality waves.

Keith is now planning further renovation works.

Excavator at work, lowest low tide, Nielsons 2008

Low tide at Nielsons, May 2010

 

3.) The Wide Bay Coastal Symposium

With the support of Bundaberg Regional Council, in May 2010 Keith Drinkwater organised the Wide Bay Coastal Symposium in council chambers with an aim to further investigate surfing reef renovations in the area.  Andrew Pitt was a guest speaker and presented initial work on The Wide Bay Surf Enhancement Masterplan - essentially compiling, assessing and ranking suggested sites for reef renovations.  Keith and Andrew presented a summary of this event to the Mayor, elected Councillors and senior staff at Council.

4.) Coastal Action Strategy Committee  (Bargara)

In August 2010 the Coastal Action Strategy Committee was created to review local coastal issues and consider the Andrew Pitt 11page 'Proposal and Concept Plan for Neilsons Park, July 2010'.

by Andrew Pitt © 2012