An Inconvenient Truth?
Take a seat. This one will take some mulling over. Comfortable? Good. Now, let me run a hypothesis by you.
Kirra is a myth.
Yep, you read it right. The wave that is revered around the world, that has spawned a thousand comparisons, and that is currently trying to be resurrected to its former glory is a myth.
But not a myth because it didn't happen. Hell no, it's well documented that from the late 60's to the late 90's Kirra served up the deepest most makeable barrels in the world. It didn't break very often but when it did it broke with such quality that Tracks readers consistently voted it the best wave in Australia.
My hypothesis is that it is a myth because what we saw wasn't Kirra in its natural state. It wasn't real Kirra. You see, humans have tampered with the southern end of the Gold Coast more than just about any stretch of coastline in the world.
In 1962 the rockwalls to the Tweed River were extended to allow safe passage of boats crossing the bar. One side-affect was that the south-north flow of sand was interupted causing it to back up on the southern side of the rockwalls and effectively starve the beaches immediately to the north, Kirra included.
Therefore, if we are to think about Kirra in its natural state - what I mentioned above as real Kirra - then we have to think about Kirra before 1962.
Another side-affect was that, with the reduced beach width, the waves came right up to the rocks at Kirra and ran down the point. Surfers of the 1960's commented upon the waves at Kirra though it wasn't till the shortboard revolution happened that Rabbit, MP, PT and their generation could traverse the Kirra drainers with the help of shorter boards and refined designs.
Those who surfed it during the halcyon years - from the early 70's to the late-90's - caught the Gold Coast beaches in a wild state of flux. The beaches were often denuded of sand. Numerous coastal engineering projects affected sandflow and altered the sand-bottomed waves.
With the benefit of hindsight the golden years of Kirra may prove to be a fluky yet fleeting moment in time. Like a vein of gold in the desert that gets uncovered during a sandstorm then disappears beneath the dunes. But those who saw it keep on searching...
The risk at the moment is that the Tweed River Entrance Sand Bypass Project (TRESBP) has stabilised the southern Gold Coast beaches. The operators have done a good job of recreating the natural northward flow of sand and the beaches are the closest they've been to their 'natural' state in years (see photos below). The sand will still fluctuate but may not always provide the best surfing conditions.
So my hypothesis goes: those who surfed it after 1962 and thought it was a wave in its natural state are incorrect. They are remembering a wave that had already been tampered with.
Therefore, if people really want to 'Let Kirra Be Kirra'...well, the sand-pumping operation is currently giving you your wish.
On the other hand, if those people wish to 'Bring Kirra Back' - meaning the barrels not the beach - then they should drop all environmental pretense and shoot for that man-made goal. If that is the case, then fair enough. As I've mentioned above the Gold Coast is already heavily engineered so if the community wants 'better barrels through engineering' then so be it.
However, it follows that any environmental group that has aligned themselves with this movement will need to consider their positions, lest they undermine their own philosophical stance in the process. It's only a hypothesis - and it's certainly inconvenient - but it's what I'm running with at the moment.