Color Me Novice on the Gold Coast

Color-coded difficulty system proposed by Gold Coast, Australia council

Come 2016, Snapper could get a fresh paint job in the form of a difficulty-rating color scheme. Photo: Joli

Come 2016, Snapper could get a fresh paint job in the form of a difficulty-rating color scheme. Photo: Joli

Green circle. Blue square. Triple black diamond. These pairs of colors and shapes are familiar on ski runs as difficulty warning symbols, but they soon could appear at Gold Coast surf breaks too, according to a recent article by The Brisbane Times.

As part of a developing “Surf Management Plan” that is evolving in response to crowds of underskilled riders at popular breaks, the Gold Coast City Council floated the option to categorize the difficulty of waves by color, much like how snow slopes are labeled. The information could appear on signs and on surf condition websites, educating surfers on the locations that best reflect their abilities in the water.

“When you go to the snow you can go on a black run, or a blue run, or a red run, or whatever,” said Burleigh Heads councillor Greg Betts. “And the thought was, ‘Why don’t we do this with surf breaks?'”

The suggestion came as much a reaction to tension as a push for safety. Beginners often paddle out at breaks that are fit only for seasoned surfers, and the scuffles between the two groups — often over frustrations of clogged lineups, near collisions, and misunderstandings in surf etiquette — have turned heated enough that the term “surf rage” appears the plan’s outline. The thinking goes that a color-coded system could do much to prevent riffs along breaks by alerting novices of waves that are too advanced, which, hopefully, would reduce at least some congestion at the Gold Coast’s most famed spots.

“In terms of awareness and educating people about the breaks and the conditions, it is not a bad idea,” said Andrew McKinnon, the chairman of the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve.

McKinnon admitted how the differences between snow and surf make him question the effectiveness of the system. He did say, however, that the idea has merit.

“I don’t know if it is the answer to overcrowding at surf breaks and ‘surf rage,’ but just getting out the message of what the breaks are, and what level of proficiency is required, is something that could be a really good education message.”

No details of the system have been finalized. The Gold Coast City Council’s Surf Management Plan is due sometime before Christmas.

Snapper beginners, need not try. Photo: Joli

Snapper beginners, need not try. Photo: Joli