Surf magazines love Hawai'i. Waves created by oil-tanker-snapping storms in the Northern Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska pummel the north-facing shores of the islands all winter, and the sheer ferociousness of the surf combines with the beauty of the lush green backdrops to make good stuffing to fill monthly glossies. But the reality of Hawai'i in wintertime isn't exactly what magazines will have you believe. Those massive mountains of water usually arrive with strong gusting winds and torrential rain that can last for weeks at a time. It's not uncommon for the ocean touching the North Shore of O'ahu to look like a washing machine from Halloween until Christmas morning.
When the wind finally shifts offshore, the clouds part, and the swell pulses to ten feet, a whole new reality emerges–Hawai'i isn't for everyone. On good days the lineups are crowded to the point of being dangerous, and the crowds aren't a bunch of beginners on fun eggs. Nowhere on Earth will you find more professional surfers per square inch than sitting on the peak at Pipeline on a “good” day. And don't be fooled, those guys aren't out there high-fiving each other and joking about the party last night–they're in survival mode. Anyone who tells you their heart isn't in their throat when they look up and see Sunset swinging wide is a f–king liar. Hawai'i is good for magazines, pros, and the select few who feel the constant need to be reminded that life is fragile and short.
For everyone else, there's the Gold Coast.
Located several thousand miles across the Pacific from Hawai'i, south of the equator and halfway up the right side of the Australian continent is surfing's softer side. Imagine, if you will, a place where squeaky white-sand beaches separate some of the world's most rippable right-hand pointbreaks from under-crowded coastal towns packed with pubs that serve the planet's best lager beers. Envision a subtropical surf wonderland, where Southern Hemisphere south swells wrap gently up the coast, sending head-high barrels peeling along submerged sand banks with almost mathematical precision for miles uninterrupted. If the North Shore of O'ahu is the capital of surfing, the stretch of coast from Anguarie to North Stradbroke Island is the capital of having fun while surfing.
And at the center of this nature-created surfpark is one of the seven wonders of the surfing world. A decade or so ago, a local city council on the Gold Coast set out to clear a river mouth of sand, and in the process accidentally created what's known today simply as “the Superbank”–an ever-changing, forever-widening bank of city-pumped sand that is home to one of the world's longest, most-perfect right-handed tubes. The perfect mistake. The accidental masterstroke. Beginning on page 140 of this issue, our photographers magically transport you to a place where thirteen-second barrels aren't that uncommon, and where the only time your heart is in your throat is when the VB's running low and the delivery truck has yet to arrive.–Joel Patterson