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Straddie: “Paddle Or Die!”

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Would you risk life and limb to ride a quality A-frame?

“Fuck the taxi” reads Stradbroke Island’s most cherished drainpipe.

This is the local surfers’ response to overcrowding at the Gold Coast’s premier beachie, South Strad, a wave that breaks on the wrong side of a three-hundred meter channel. In order to surf the spot, riders are forced to cross the supposedly shark-infested (Derek don’t believe it) inlet by way of paddling or, in the case of bein’ a lil’ bitch-ass, paying some guy five bucks for a taxi across the pond.

This taxi debate has been simmering since the mid-nineties, but a recent influx of swell and crowds sent Straddie “locals” into a boiling rage, leading to a series of offensive slurs graffitied upon the Straddie sand-spitter. They read:

Taxi = dog act
Fuck off taxi cunt!
Respect is earned not given
Paddle or die
Fuck off Brazilian snakes!

…Aussies are always good for a little profanity and subtle racism.

During my four month stint on the Gold Coast, I managed to survive the paddle on a handful of occasions. I never took the boat, partly because Aussie money is fucked (what kind of lunatics walk around with coins in their pockets?) but mostly because my local friends were ascribed to this hardcore mentality. To paddle across the channel proves your devotion and courage, while taxigoers might as well stitch a big, pink ‘P’ right over their Billabong wetsuit logo.

Unless of course you’re a Mad Huey or one of the other twenty locals who docks a boat/ski just offshore. That shit is encouraged. It’s those damn immigrants with their economical, more environmental friendly ride-shares who are stealing all the stoke.

But while I disagree with the locals’ logic, I do understand their contempt. The Goldy is perhaps the most crowded surf zone in the world, and Straddie was one of their last hidden gems. Since its creation in 1986, the Southport Seaway has acted as a final line of defense — a moat, really — for this once-uncrowded break.

The taxi negates the Seaway’s effects by providing a shark-free, current-defying (the rip gets damn fierce) access point to an extremely desirable locale, perhaps inflating its daily visitor-count by a significant amount. The Gold Coast Bulletin states that up to four-hundred surfers hit Straddie on a weekend with good waves. The number of those who utilize the taxi is unreported, but from personal experience I’d wager it’s close to 25%, maybe worse in the summer.

If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s an aged clip of Strad doing its thing.