Back in 1999, an artificial reef was created off Australia’s Gold Coast. It was placed at Narrowneck beach, an exposed stretch of foreshore that had a history of storm-driven erosion. The reef worked when it came to protecting the coastline from big swells, and, as an added benefit, promoted the build up of sand near the reef. Now, nearly two decades later, the city is dumping around $2 million into a reef renovation.
Now, these kinds of things don’t always work out. One very notable example happened in Bournemouth, England, where the town council basically dumped £3.2 million directly into the sea. The artificial reef was a bunch of sandbags dumped into the ocean, where they proceeded to make unsurfable waves and, according to The Times, “such strong underwater currents that surfers risked being sucked into gaps between the 55 giant sandbags used to build it.”
That kind of shit wouldn’t fly in Australia, though, so Gold Coasters didn’t bungle the operation. And while the reef’s first function is coastal protection, the mayor is very aware that lots (LOTS) of people surf in his town and if he ruined the wave he’d probably get run out of town by an angry, torch-wielding (not Tiki) mob. “While the primary purpose of the artificial reef is to function as a coastal protection structure, the City recognizes the importance of surfing on the Gold Coast and has considered surfing outcomes when designing the renewal,” Mayor Tom Tate said to the Gold Coast Bulletin. “This has included scale model testing to assess wave breaking on the reef.”
A boat dropped the first of 70 massive sandbags early this month, each of which is roughly the size of a school bus. They’re made to last for decades, and with any luck, the wave that breaks over the artificial reef will just get better. “The ultimate aim is to have this reef be here for a quarter of a century to protect the residents here as well as all the public and private properties,” Tate finished.