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Gold Coast’s iconic break Snapper Rocks to rejoin World Surf League championship tour

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After five years in the surfing wilderness, Queensland’s famous break Snapper Rocks is back on the World Surf League (WSL) championship tour.

The event will return to Coolangatta from 2025 after the WSL inked a four-year deal with the City of Gold Coast and Tourism and Events Queensland.

Snapper Rocks was the season opener for the elite surfing tour for two decades until the event was axed in a major shake-up to the schedule during the COVID pandemic.

The Snapper Rocks pro was cancelled in 2021.(Supplied: WSL / Kelly Cestari)

The WSL took a break from competition during the first year of the pandemic and when it returned in 2021, the Gold Coast lost its hosting rights because of a dispute between the Queensland government and WSL over COVID restrictions.

The Queensland leg of the tour was moved to New South Wales.

For the past three years Snapper Rocks has instead hosted the opening event of the WSL’s second-tier competition, the Challenger Series, as part of a revamped format for professional surfing.

The championship tour contest was an important part of the social fabric and surf culture of Coolangatta — a region that has produced more world champions than anywhere in the world.

A woman is carried along a beach by a bunch of people. She is smiling.

Steph Gilmore has won the event at her Snapper Rocks home break a record six times.(AAP Image: Kirstin Scholtz)

Widespread impact

Three-time world champ and two-time winner at Snapper Rocks, Mick Fanning, said losing the event had been a heartbreaking blow to the community.

“To not have it here was so sad, not only for us surfers who want people [to] surf our waves, but also for the kids growing up seeing what the benchmark is and what is actually possible at their home break,” he said.

Fanning welcomed its return.

“It’s an event that’s obviously close to my heart,” he said.

“There is so much history that has gone on even before I was on tour.

“It’s not just for Gold Coast kids, it’s for everywhere — far north New South Wales, up the Sunny Coast — people would travel from all over.”

A surfer makes a turn on a wave.

Mick Fanning says it didn’t feel right for Snapper Rocks to not to be on the tour.(AAP Image: Kelly Cestari)

Major attraction

Tourism and Events Queensland predicted the event’s return to the Gold Coast would attract 14,000 fans and inject $2.9 million into the local economy.

a huge crowd on the beach to watch a professional surfing contest

The 10-day competition brings surfing fans from around the world to the Gold Coast.(Supplied: WSL / Kelly Cestari)

The WSL is yet to reveal how Snapper Rocks will fit in to the 2025 schedule and whether its addition will mean another location is on the chopping block.

The 2024 Australian leg includes stops at Bells Beach in March and Margaret River April.

It is likely the Gold Coast will become the final event before the mid-season cut, or the first event after the cut.

Mick Fanning works his way through the crowd of fans on the beach

Mick Fanning was a crowd favourite at his home break.(Supplied: WSL / Kelly Cestari)

Fanning said the WSL had made the right call.

“You have got to make sure the premier waves, the premier locations are on the world tour because that’s where you want to see the best surfing done,” he said.

“If that’s the last event for the cut then that’s incredible.

“It’s a lot more predictable than Margaret River.

“You can let your surfing do the talking at Snapper, it’s always fairly consistent there are not big changes throughout the day.”

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