queen of all australian bodyboarding waves
Shark Island is an exposed rock outcrop located 150 meters off the coast of Cronulla, New South Wales. Welcome to one of the most feared waves in the world.
Australia is the birthplace of contemporary bodyboarding and some of the most beautiful and dangerous slab waves on the planet.
With 22,292 miles of coastline, the southern hemisphere offers plenty of exceptional bodyboarding spots.
Shark Island is one of them.
Infamous among the surfing community as one of the most dangerous waves in the world, the break produces a wave whose mission is to bruise and crush its outer shell.
This wave does not excuse blows.
He enjoys inflicting pain on her; he loves the taste of blood and senses fear in every rider, punishing those who show it the most.
Only those who inject pure adrenaline into the very veins that pump his ability to block the mental game that Shark Island plays.
A slab heavy as hell
As one of the toughest bodyboarding waves on the planet, Shark Island can be as heavy as Teahupoo Where Shipstern Cliff.
“After liftoff on the peak comes White Rock, a shallow ledge covered in sharp barnacles that flips the wave as it drags further than you thought possible,” notes Owen Pye, author of “The Bodyboard Travel Guide.” .
“Don’t come here, you’ll instantly regret it.”
“Shark Island’s barrel is wider than it is tall, and the thickness of the lip is second only to the mutant that is Teahupoo.”
“This lip will blast all the water off the shelf and send a shock back into the barrel, which you’ll fight to overcome before the wave turns into a Surge.”
“That end section is where it slows, rises and twists with boils before exploding onto a cunji covered shelf with 3-4 inch barnacles ready to rip you to pieces.”
The wave breaks beyond the shallow – sometimes dry – waters and is one of the most intense places you can face.
Crowds are often large and aggressive, as Sydney’s weekend warriors travel to Cronulla on the train to get their fix.
“Shark Island has got to be one of the most amazing waves you can ever bodyboard,” says Australian veteran bodyboarder Dave Winchester.
“It breaks quite close to land, it’s extremely shallow and the locals are charging harder than anyone. Although a lot of people have been injured there, it’s a break you just want to go to and score. It’s so good.”
Wave and wind conditions
Shark Island works best on a strong SE-E swell fed by low pressure systems in the Tasman Sea and SW-W-NW winds.
However, follow a straight, clean, medium to large SE swell of 4-8 feet for perfect conditions.
Shark Island can only be surfed for two hours either side of high tide – one mistimed move can land you on a dry reef.
“It’s not the fish to worry about when facing the sinister square shacks of Shark Island,” says Antony Colas, author of “The World Stormrider Surf Guide”.
“The original slab of hell has fascinated the surf press for decades, and while it may have lost some of its cachet to slightly creepier mutant barrels in other parts of the world, Shark Island is still one of the most fearsome pits on the planet.”
“Airdrop hopefully ollieing the stairway, in a path wider than the top tube before being spat up the climb or driven onto the shelf.”
Right waves are best on an SE swell, while less deadly lefts appear in E-NE.
“Bodyboarders love it, infernals load it up, and most everyday surfers should avoid it,” Colas concludes.
“The localism, attitude and crowds of dismissive bodyboarders add to the dangerous nature of this cunjevoi-covered outcrop. So paddle from the point and don’t think of the name.”
A few meters further north, a strong S-SE swell and SW winds at Cronulla’s The Point build up very strong right walls that would fall into the world class category.
It’s long, thick and tough, especially in terms of size, which it handles with aplomb, much like the local chargers that rule this coveted range.
The point will sink deeper in small NE-E swells but will break up a bit.
The reef is always ready to surprise those who sit inside because the crowds are dense.
And rogue fences threaten to push bodyboarders and surfers hard into the limestone reef at any moment.
“Cronulla Point has many moods,” writes Chris Rennie, author of “The Surfer’s Travel Guide Australia.”
“On full days, ‘The Point’ is a serious straight wave that quickly blasts through the reef with Hawaiian power and class.”
“It’s at its best in a solid S-SE with S-SW wind. ‘The Point’ is rideable in any swell direction and is sometimes more hollow in an E-NE swell. However, when it’s really big, S swells are better.”
“”Voodoo” sits just at the northeast end of Bate Bay and is at its best in a solid S swell with NW-NE winds. It’s a world class left that can easily handle up to 15 feet.”
These are expert surf spots only, so be careful and never surf alone.
The Shark Island Challenge
For over 20 years, Cronulla’s Shark Island has been a proving ground for high performance bodyboarding in Australia.
In 1997, this proving ground was extended to a select international contingent when a hardcore group of Cronulla locals led by Mark Fordham and Nathan Purcell started a competition format they named the Shark Island Challenge (SIC ).
The concept was simple.
Invite the world’s best riders to Cronulla to ride Australia’s original consequence wave for a winner-takes-all shootout.
Over the years, the Shark Island Challenge has become one of the most prestigious events in the world, synonymous with some of the most breathtaking competition images in bodyboarding history.
For many years, the SIC has been voted by bodyboarders around the world as the most prestigious event on the planet and one of the toughest contests on the circuit.
Guilherme Tamega is the bodyboarder with the most victories.
The Shark Island Challenge provides viewers with incredible visuals as racers negotiate a sharp, shallow reef that regularly shatters bones and bodies.
“Shark Island is one of the reasons I bodyboard. As a kid, I used to look at the pictures of the waves and dream.”
“For me, the Shark Island event is the epitome of competitive bodyboarding,” world bodyboarding champion Ben Player once said.
Shark Island, New South Wales, Australia | ID and x-ray
Location: Shark Island, Cronulla, New South Wales, Australia
Type of wave: Reef break left/right
Length: up to 110 yards (100 meters)
Best wave direction: SE
Best wave size: 4 to 10 feet
Best wind direction: W
Best tide: medium to high rising/falling
Best time to surf: fall-winter
Skill Level: Advanced to Professional
Best Board: Bodyboard, Shortboard, Tow and Gun
Crowd: heavy and slightly intimidating
Water quality: good
Dangers: Reef, Rocks, Sharks, Rips, Urchins, Inhabitants
Below: rock and reef
Water temperature: 64-74°F (17-23°C)
Getting there: paddle from the rocks
Bibliography and references:
B. Sutherland and A. Colas. “The World Stormrider Surfing Guide”, Low Pressure Edition, 2018
O.Pie. “The bodyboard travel guide”, Orca Publications, 2012
C. Rennie. “The Surfer’s Guide to Australia”, Over the Falls Press, 2016