REVEALED: How nature and nurture are killing Coast surf
A STEADY northern flow of sand, flat conditions and the pumping of nearly 100,000 cubic metres of sand are combining to flatten out one of the Coast's most popular beaches.
The Maroochydore surfing community has voiced its fears, as a long, flat bank has been created, turning the open beach into a straight-breaking, dumping wave.
Mitch Surman has surfed the region his entire life, and his grandfather was the first to run a barge operation up to Double Island Point.
The owner of Glass Coffee House and Ms. Surfboards said the taming of Maroochydore Beach had been a real talking point with customers.
He said there was essentially a straight bank running all the way through to nearly Point Arkwright which was increasing the level of surf rage and congestion at alternate breaks like the Maroochy River mouth and even as far as Double Island Point.
"There was 40 people in the water at Maroochy River mouth this morning," he said yesterday.
He believed the sand being pumped from the river mouth up onto Maroochydore Beach at present was contributing to the problem, filling in gutters and flattening banks.
Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club's director of junior activities Kirk Jarrott said they would be monitoring the dumping conditions closely for Nippers events until storms and swells gave some shape to the banks once again.
"They (dredgers) put it (sand) on the beach and it just washes in, creating straight banks," he said.
"The waves will be dumping a lot more, very similar to Mooloolaba Beach.
"In the past we had nice, spilling waves."
He said if it was "tricky and dangerous" the Nippers programs would be shifted to the river mouth and the safety of the sandbags.
"The beach is really long and wide (at the moment). It's dumping all the way through," Mr Jarrott said.
BMT WBM coastal engineer Dr Matthew Barnes didn't believe the Maroochydore Beach sand renourishment program - which has had about 95,000 cubic metres of sand shifted from the river mouth to the beach and another 5000 cubic metres to go in the next fortnight - would have had much impact.
He previously described the dredging program as a sand-recycling program which was "robbing Peter to pay Paul".
He said there was already a lot of sand in the system and had been for the past few years, following a significant shift of sand from Point Cartwright to the north.
Dr Barnes thought there was "probably a bit of a surplus" at the moment and if there was more flexibility in the dredging programs, the current pumping may be considered unnecessary.
But he said the main focus of the program was on protection of land-based assets and he believed there was still some value in building up the buffer of sand ahead of cyclone season.
Dr Barnes said the trade-off with pumping sand offshore was that it took longer to shift onto the beach and build up the buffer.
A Sunshine Coast Council spokesman said the sand placement had started about 200m north of the Maroochy Surf Club and was going as high as possible on the beach without covering dune vegetation, with no sand placed in the lower tidal zone.
The spokesman said the region was currently in the middle of its sand accretion season, which impacts on the structure of sand banks.
"The beach nourishment program may have increased the volume of sand in the banks along the Maroochydore stretch, however, it is generally this time of year when that part of our coastline experiences dumping waves due to the lack of weather events which create rips and changes to the sand bank structures," the spokesman said.
"Weather events will dictate how the sand banks change over the coming months and into the storm season."
Northshore Boardriders Club president Lorenzo Reginato questioned the thought process behind and need for the current dredging and pumping program.
"It's definitely become more dangerous on that beach," he said.
"There's nearly 100m of beach on low tide."
He said they'd had to shift a number of events normally held at central Maroochydore Beach to the river mouth in search of some wave variety.
"There's enough natural sand movement along all of the ocean beaches," Mr Reginato said.
Lifelong Coast surfer and small business owner Bryan Weir said he'd seen a lot of inshore sand moving along the whole Sunshine Coast.
"The beach was looking pretty good before they started dredging," he said.
He believed the amount of sand coming from Buddina and Kawana could be start of a large natural sand flow for years to come.
Mr Weir said the ocean was always a "contentious issue" in this region, and while the current sand relocation would make it easier for lifesavers with a reduction in rips and gutters, it was not a good result for the surfing community.
"They could squirt a few banks out for us while they're there," he said with a laugh.
"That'd make the surfers happy."
He said the council could not be blamed entirely for the issue, as there was natural sand flow and peak surf season was January-May.
Dr Barnes believed it would be unlikely approval would be granted to create banks off Maroochydore Beach, as it was not an exact science.
"It's pretty experimental," he said.
He thought Maroochydore Beach was in pretty good shape at present to withstand a significant storm event.
Mr Surman said he and others had taken to surfing a lot less, busy with work and other commitments and unwilling to deal with the surf rage and congestion when there were waves around at present.
He thought offshore pumping of the sand would be "100%" better than pumping onto the beachhead.
Mr Jarrott suggested research into a system similar to what is being used between Kurrawa and Southport on the Gold Coast, which was being followed by surfers for the banks it was creating.