Bidding war sees NSW snatch iconic Gold Coast surf comp

New South Wales has snatched yet another major surfing competition after laying down $5 million to bring the event over the border.

The World Surf League (WSL) will not compete at the Gold Coast’s Snapper Rocks this year, with the leg to be held at Narrabeen in Sydney’s northern beaches from April 16 to 26.

It then moves west for the Margaret River Pro from May 2 before finishing at Rottnest Island from May 16 to 26.

It is the latest move by NSW to secure major surfing competitions after the Bells Beach event was moved to Newcastle.

In both cases the unwillingness of either Victoria or Queensland to fund quarantine bubbles for each event were behind WSL’s decision to relocate.

“This year, the Aussie CT leg is looking very different to what we’re used to due to COVID-19,” said WSL Asia-Pacific general manager Andrew Stark.

“Although it’s genuinely disappointing to miss locations like Bells Beach and Snapper Rocks this year, we are stoked to add Newcastle, North Narrabeen and Rottnest Island to the schedule.”

NSW was the only state which would agree to receive a charter plane carrying international surfers and officials, Stark said.

“We requested a pre-approved bubble to operate our event and we requested Queensland Police resource support for this bubble, and both items were knocked back by the government,” he said.

“We absolutely respect their position in this challenging time and we’re obviously disappointed to lose Snapper Rocks this year, given its iconic status and long history on the world tour.

“But we need to run events, de-risk and deliver our sport. The entire tour was cancelled last year and we need to do whatever it takes to get it moving again.”

The Queensland government is reported to have offered $500,000 towards staging the event at Snapper Rocks in May, but NSW and Western Australia offered upwards of $5 million.

Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the WSL was “chasing short-term dollars at the expense of surfing tradition”.

“I am less disappointed with the NSW Government than I am with the World Surf League’s decision to chase short-term dollars at the expense of surfing tradition,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said it was a “big blow for the Gold Coast”, which has held the event for the last 20 years.

“Loyalty works both ways and we have been loyal to surfing competitions for decades on end, yet in the blink of an eye it has been lured down to NSW for a few dollars,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin.