Perth is the capital of Western Australia and with approximately 2 million people the fourth most populated city in Australia. A mix of limestone reef and sandy beaches result in a variety of surf spots along Perth’s coastline.
The Western Australian wave climate and surf is predominantly influenced by three atmospheric systems. The Southern Ocean storm belt (also known as the roaring forties and furious fifties), a band of swell generating, eastward propagating low pressure systems; the subtropical high-pressure ridge, a band of eastward traveling anticyclones; and the sea breeze system.
A seasonal southward shift of the subtropical high-pressure ridge in summer suppresses the Southern Ocean storms from reaching Perth’s coast resulting in smaller waves in the summer months. In winter the subtropical high-pressure band shifts northward allowing the Southern Ocean storms to travel further north and directly impact Perth’s coastline resulting in large surf and strong winds.
During summer Perth’s coastline is exposed to a strong sea breeze system and impacts the nearshore wave climate. The sea breeze is characterised by easterly (offshore) winds in the mornings followed by south-southwesterly winds in the afternoon. The sea breeze generates short period waves nearshore which is responsible for northward sediment/sand transport during the summer months. Perth’s waves can also be generated by tropical cyclones during summer.
Average significant wave heights range between 1-2 m during summer and 1.5-2.5 m during winter and the dominant wave direction is from the southwest. The wave climate and surf conditions vary significantly along the Perth coastline as offshore reefs, shallow areas of the shelf, and most importantly Rottnest Island dissipating, refracting, and blocking large amounts of the wave energy. Wave heights along the coast are therefore significantly smaller than offshore of Rottnest Island.
Trigg beach and Trigg point are located to the north of the Perth metropolitan area. Trigg is often just outside of the swell shadow created by Rottnest Island. Trigg therefore usually has the biggest surf in the Perth region.
In the summer months, Trigg is often the only surfable place and it can get ridiculously crowded. Due to the northward transport of sand in summer mentioned earlier, sand banks form around the southern side of Trigg point creating excellent waves at times. On big days the waves can actually be quite powerful and it’s not uncommon to see broken surfboards.
North of Trigg, along West Coast Drive towards Hillarys Boat Harbour, there are a few reef break options that work under different conditions and can generate excellent waves for surfers who don’t mind surfing over rocks.
Surfing WA runs their surf lessons at Trigg beach so if you’re new to the sport this is a good starting point. Surfing WA have qualified instructors to get you up on the board.
Just south of Trigg beach Scarborough beach is the epicenter of Perth’s surfing scene. The beach promenade is plastered with bars and food shacks. Browsing through the many surf shops you can find a range of the big name surfboards, as well as some local brands and shapers such as Ross Rutherford’s Soul Boardstore and equip yourself with the latest beach fashion. If you don’t have your own board, you can also rent surfboards here.
In summer there are often free live concerts on the beach and there are always some smaller gigs in at Indi Bar and Oceans Bar on the weekends. It’s a nice alternative to the hectic and often aggressive party scene in the city.
While the banks are typically pretty straight during the summer months, winter can deliver some great surf once the banks have formed after the first few storms have passed. There are usually good banks to the right of the amphitheatre and south around Brighton. As all surf spots in Perth Scarborough is usually crowded when the waves are good. The best peaks are not always the most crowded ones so sometimes it pays off to walk up and down the beach a little.
South of City beach (which by the wave can have fairly decent surf too), Cottesloe is one of Perth’s nicest suburbs with plenty of beach bars and grass/park areas for sunset picnics.
Beautiful beaches and the proximity to the city center make the suburb an attractive destination for surfers, swimmers, and sun bathers alike. Cottesloe’s geology is quite diverse – with withe sandy beaches north of the Cottesloe jetty – in front of the famous tea house – and limestone reef to the south. Unfortunately, Cottesloe is situated directly in the wave shadow created by Rottnest Island which means that the waves only get big enough for surfing during large swells, mostly in winter.
There are a lot of different surf breaks to choose from ranging from Cottesloe mainbreak (a sandy beach break in front of the Cottesloe Tea House which offers nice A-frames and some protection from southerly winds) to Isolators (a longboard friendly reef break which regularly hosts competitions such as the prestigious Whalebone Classic). More surf spots can be found driving along the coast towards Port Beach in North Fremantle.
Rottnest Island is the reason that Perth’s wave are generally much smaller than the rest of Western Australia. While it has a sheltering effect on the beaches in Perth, the surf in Rottnest Island can be big and powerful, rivalling other surfing destinations like Margaret River.
Only a 30 minute boat ride away from Perth and surrounded by famous surf spots like Stickland Bay, Rotto Box, Stark Bay, or Chicken Reef, Rottnest Island is a great surf-getaway alternative to “down south” or “up north”. Ferries leave from either Hillarys Boat Harbour or Fremantle however, the ferry fees are expensive so it’s good to have a friend with a boat.