Creating The World's First DIY Reef Break
It took Greg Redgard more than a decade to convince his local council to let him have a crack at making an "unrideable" reef a legitimate wave. When he finally received approval in 1997 to change the sea floor of his local beach, the first thing the then sugarcane cutter did was go to the bank.
“I didn't have much money - still haven't got that much money - so I mortgaged my house and borrowed money off my mortgage,” Greg says. "I think I told the bank I was going to buy a car or something. I just had to get the money quick and do it."
Built For Purpose
The break at Burkitts Reef, Bargara, in Queensland's Bundaberg region, was previously obstructed by large rocks protruding out of the water.
"You really couldn't surf it, because you'd take off, go for about two or three metres and you would just run into rocks," Greg says. "I was just looking at it [as] a surfer, sitting on the rocks and just going, 'well, if we do something with this, it will definitely make a difference.'"
Once he had the idea, creating the purpose-built wave quickly became Greg's passion. "I was just a cowboy…there was a lot of people that said, like, 'Man, you've lost the plot,'" he says.
The mortgage secured about $10,000 for Greg and his surf mates to rent a 30-tonne excavator and they got the job done within weeks. They relocated the largest boulders nearby, reshaped rocks to sculpt a reef, and paddled bricks out on a surfboard, placing them into areas that needed filling.
"It was tonnes of rock that we relocated," he says. "And then we made the surface area under the water flat so that the wave could break over it. Not rocket science.
"All of a sudden, we had this great place to surf…it's been a hit from then on."
Reaping Rewards Decades On
Greg's efforts resulted in small but surfable waves at high tide, particularly during the November to April trade swell season. Unknowingly, he'd created the world's first surf-enhancement project, finding himself featured in TIME magazine for the achievement.
The reef remains a popular surfing location in the Bundaberg region.(Supplied: Jimmy Scaboo)
In the years that followed, Greg surfed with his children on the very reef he mortgaged his house to create. He even dedicated his work on the reef to his daughter Tahlija Redgard, who now travels to surf, sometimes competing, other times enjoying the surfing lifestyle learnt at home.
"He took Burkitts Reef, redefined what was possible and made what was once unrideable an absolute playground for all of us local kids growing up," says Tahlija, now 29. "When I was younger and living at home, I surfed it every time it was working. Dad would pick me up from school and we'd have a late one out there or surf all day on the weekends."
The reef is still one of the best waves in the region, and you'll find Greg, now in his 60s, surfing there whenever he can.
"You still come across the odd person that, you know, thinks, 'Oh, why? Why don't you just go and live somewhere with better surf?'" he says. "And I [think], 'No, I've brought some better surf to my own town.'"
// SARAH HOWELLS and DANIELLE O'NEAL
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