Bugs on the state of the Snapper sand
“It’s hard to believe,” says Rabbit Bartholomew when I spoke to him this morning, “but we haven’t had a single week of southerlies up here on the Gold Coast.”
“Oh, there was Oma, of course, but that was southerly and cyclonic,” he chuckles. “But it’s been months, months, since we’ve had just a normal week of south-east winds.”
The unusual season on the Gold Coast has manifested itself in various ways, but right now Bugs is concerned about the state of the Snapper bank. The Quiksilver Pro waiting period begins in a fortnight and the sand is in a parlous state.
“We’ve had a hole at Snapper since about October,” Bugs explains, “which was followed by a full season of northerly winds.” To create that ruler-edged line, the Superbank requires southerly winds to create a longshore current that transports sand from the Froggies outlet, around Snapper Rocks, and then lays it down smoothly along the length of the Superbank.
Without the regular feed of sand, wave action serrates the bank creating irregular sections or holes such as the one currently at Snapper.
“Just before Oma, the sand started coming back,” states Bugs. “Did you see those waves of Owen [Wright] behind the rock?”
I reply that I had.
“Well that was the first day of Oma. The sand had just started returning but then it all went sideways when Oma hit. It was 100% predictable what was going to happen.”
The Superbank, not recently (Andrew Shield)
But TC Oma was almost a month ago. What’s the state of the sand right now?
“It’s deep at Snapper, and there’s a storm bar outside Rainbow, it’s not great. But none of that really matters,” chirps Rabbit. “It’s what’s happening at Froggies that’ll dictate the sand situation.”
Froggies is the small beach immediately south-east of Snapper Rocks and it’s crucial to the Superbank because it’s the location of the primary outfall of the Tweed River Bypass System. The sand that would otherwise be trapped on the south side of the Tweed training walls now gets pumped to the ‘Snapper Rocks East Outfall’ - i.e Froggies Beach.
“Froggies is building up,” says Bugs, who keeps a weather eye on this stretch of coast. “But it’s the second half of the beach that’s crucial. Once it extends past the rocks, then depending on the current, it’ll start flowing around to Snapper.”
This is the part where various elements have to align, because, as Bugs has observed, the sand has almost filled Froggies and is ready to again overflow, but for Snapper to benefit the current has to be flowing in the right direction. It needs a southerly swell.
We check the forecast charts together and note a southerly swell due exactly one week out from the waiting period, and possibly another one after it. “It’s gonna be touch and go,” says Bugs. “Sometimes the bank builds up but it’s just a short, sharp, and hollow bank. It runs for fifty metres and stops in deep water. You can run the comp but it’s not good.”
“It’s possible they could run five lay days and wait for the sand to build up properly.” But here Bugs is just shooting the shit, floating ideas and scenarios, ‘cos face it, that’s what surfers like to do. “Then again, I’ve seen it when the elements align and the bank is fixed in 36 hours.”
As we speak the workmen are building the giant marquee at Rainbow Bay, and all the while the sand is piling up at Froggies getting closer to the point it spills over and, weather permitting, builds the most important piece of infrastructure on the point.
Before bidding farewell I asked Bugs who was going to win Snapper. Here's his abbreviated answer:
"It's interesting, isn't it? Like the field is wide open this year. We've got John John here now, he's arrived early, and I know he's returning from injury, but that to me is a real statement of intent."
"But then it's so hard to go past the Brazilian trio of Filipe, Gabriel, and Italo. If the conditions are right then I'd say Filipe....but then Julian is also a favourite, it was incredible what he did here last year, and it wasn't a one-off, he was in the running till the end. He'll have a fire in his belly."
"And you know, what if it's pumping? You would've seen the footage of Jack Freestone during Oma. Who couldn't pick him after that performance?! It feels like Jack knows he belongs there on the CT. Same with Ryan Callinan, and Jordy Smith, he's a veteran now but he hasn't slowed. Kelly Slater is also in the mix as he always is."
"If it's 2-4 foot Snapper then I'd say Filipe...or maybe Julian. If it's big behind the rock then one of the Wright family, and if it's down at Kirra then Jack."