Victoria’s coastline stretches over 2,000 km. Its landscapes are diverse, ranging from sandy beaches, dune systems and wetlands to forests, heathland, rugged cliffs and rocky shores.
The State of the Marine and Coastal Environment 2021 Report looks at how people connect with these environments. It also explores how these connections inform their sense of identity and sense of belonging. The report highlights surfing as a marine and coastal activity with many health and wellbeing benefits.
Phillip Island is home to Victoria’s only National Surfing Reserve. Phillip Island National Surfing Reserve was declared on 16 March 2013 for the surfers of yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Reserve is the first and only of its kind in Victoria and one of 18 across Australia. It took two years of hard work by the area’s land managers and a dedicated Community Working Group to establish.
- Geoff Owens, Phillip Island Board Riders Club and Working Group member.
Each of the four areas within the reserve was selected for its unique attributes, including breaks and swells:
- Cat Bay boasts high-quality breaks. This area faces north while other Island breaks face south, so it provides waves to surf in big swells when the other south-facing beaches on Phillip Island have onshore winds and no waves to ride.
- Summerland is the ‘birthplace’ of surfing on Phillip Island dating back to the 1920s. It boasts iconic reef breaks that are able to be surfed in the largest of swells.
- Smiths Beach includes the ‘hero wave’ Express Point - a barrelling reef break wave favoured by experienced surfers. It also has the sheltered beaches of Smiths and YCW where the surfers of the future learn to surf and perfect their skills.
- Cape Woolamai is the Island’s iconic surfing area. This majestic stretch of spectacular beach with the granite headland as a backdrop includes world-famous breaks at Anzacs Beach and the Clubhouse - where the Woolamai Beach Surf Life Saving Club is located.
Ceremonies were held at each reserve site including a Welcome to Country and dedication by surfing legends with special connections to each break.
Since forming in 2013, the community working group has continued to promote, protect and celebrate the Reserve. An Annual Surfing Tag Team Challenge is hosted, where all ages and abilities fight it out for the Dave Fincher Memorial Trophy.
The Reserve develops and maintains an archive of Phillip Island’s surfing history. Exhibitions of the archives have been held in the Island’s community museum and are displayed at community events.
Most recently, local Aboriginal artist and working group member, Steve Ulula Parker, produced a sculpture. This was placed at Anzacs Beach – part of the Reserve’s Cape Woolamai break. The sculpture represents the cultural significance of the ocean around the Cape, Pinnacles and Pyramid Rock and the tidal movements between the Cape and San Remo.
One of the Island’s oldest surfers, Dogga Luke, summed up the universal appeal of the Island breaks celebrated by the Reserve in verse:
“And we let it take us
Far from the daily grind
Lifted on a southern swell
To a place called peace of mind.”
From therapeutic experiences to challenging recreational activities, you can read more about the different ways people connect with Victoria’s coasts and oceans in the State of the Marine and Coastal Environment 2021 Report.