The End Of The Superbank?

It's early February - two and a half weeks out from the ASP's Dream Tour 2008 - and the Superbank's looking anything but super.

As a heavy groundswell from Tropical Cyclone Gene slams Queensland's Gold Coast, the Bank zone is smothered under brown river water; the sand that makes it legendary scattered far and wide across the bay.

Maybe it'll correct itself in time for the Quiksilver Pro (due for a start Feb 23). But the bigger question might be: could the Superbank soon be a thing of memory altogether?

The sand-pumping operation that's fed this massive mile of sand barrel action is about to scale back dramatically. And one of Australia's top coastal scientists thinks this is almost certain to spell at least a partial end to the Bank.

"There'll always be more sand down in Greenmount bay than there was before (the pumping)," Dr Andy Short, a professor of geosciences at Sydney University, told Surfing magazine. "But the Superbank as it's known, off the end of Snapper right's likely to be broken up."

Dr Short is a consultant to the Tweed River Entrance Sand Bypassing Project, which was begun in 2001 as a way of bypassing the Tweed rivermouth, just south of Snapper Rocks, with the natural northerly sand flow.

Sand is pumped and dredged off Letitia Spit, south of the Tweed, to the vicinity of Snapper, where persistent south-east winds and swell push it down toward Kirra, unwittingly giving birth to the Superbank in the process.

Since 2001 the pumping has shifted around 800,000 cubic metres of sand per year. But this was in order to clear a massive backlog of sand - a task now completed. Future pumping rates will work at closer to 500,000 cubic metres, a drop of almost half.

However, there may be a bright side - the Save Kirra group may get its wish. Local surfers from Mick Fanning to the crusty Gold Coast old guard have been in mourning for some time over the fabled Kirra Point, which since the Superbank's appearance has been slowly buried in the massive sandflow. "Over time quite a bit of the old Kirra should be revealed, as the bulk of the sand continues to move," says Dr Short. "Especially if there are more heavy seas in the near future."

Dr Short says the leading edge of the original pumping is around a mile and a half beyond Kirra and continuing to shift slowly north, though "it's anyone's guess" where it'll end up.

He adds: "The Superbank could be set up in the short term by putting an extra slug of sand through the system... I'm sure there will be pressure to do that at times."