Dynamic beachbreak located in the northeast suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; home to the area's most consistent surf and a hotbed for talented, aggresive, creative, insanely competitive wave-riders. "It is possible that more surfers have learned to pull vertical off-the-lips here than at any other surf spot in the world," surf writer Nick Carroll noted. "It is probable that no single group of surfers has even come close to the Narrabeen crew's beer consumption, or their foaming lust for life."
Narrabeen's sandbars are in a constant state of flux, but there are three semipermanent breaks, from north to south: 1) Alley Rights, a wedging right that spills into the channel which connects through to nearby Narrabeen Lake. 2) North Narrabeen, the premier break, a high-performance left with a tubing end section; if conditions are right, the wave can run for up to 100 yards. 3) Carpark Rights, just south of North Narrabeen, more often than not a vicious closeout, occasionally creates a thick tubing wave during south swells.
Narrabeen (Aboriginal for "place of eels") has ridable surf all year, as the area is open to a wider range of swells than anywhere in Sydney, but generally sees its best waves from April to October during the South Pacific storm season. Nearshore cyclones can also produce good surf during February and March. Wave height is consistently between two and four feet; a few times a year the surf gets six or eight feet. Average daytime air temperatures range from the high 70s in summer to the low 60s in winter. Average water temperatures range from the low 70s to the low 60s. Snarling, tightly packed crowds are the only real Narrabeen surfing hazard.
The Narrabeen waves were being put to use by local Surf Lifesaving Club members as far back as the 1920s; Bob Pike and other top Sydney surfers from the beaches to the south began riding there often during the '50s and early '60s. In April 1963, Narrabeen was visited by a flawless eight-foot swell, and photographs of the day—with the hollow lefts looking very much like Hawaii's Pipeline—created a small sensation when published in the American surf press. ("Australia's Narrabeen" was the only non-American break name-checked in the Beach Boys' 1963 hit "Surfin' U.S.A.")
Local surfers Owen Pilon and Doc Spence formed the Narrabeen Boardriders Club in 1964, and by the end of the decade the "Narra boys" had a reputation as loud, rowdy, and hostile to outsiders. (A commemorative 30th-anniversary Narrabeen Boardriders Club album proudly stated that the group "invented localism.") Grommet-hazing was also a Narrabeen specialty, with cheeky pubescents often stripped naked, lashed to the beachfront "grommet pole," and left out for public viewing.
But the competitive nature of Narrabeen's surfers also meant that they welcomed the arrival in 1974 of the debut 2SM/Coca-Cola Surfabout pro contest; the event ran continuously until 1999, almost always at Narrabeen, and from 1975 to 1982 it was the world's richest surf contest. Surfabout winners include world champions Mark Richards, Margo Oberg, Wayne Bartholomew, Tom Carroll, Kelly Slater, Layne Beachley, and Taj Burrow. Narrabeen was also home to the 1977-founded Pro Junior event, as well as the 1998-launched ASP World Junior Championships.
Narrabeen-area surfboard shaper/designers Terry Fitzgerald and Geoff McCoy were both major players in Australian board design throughout the '70s. Simon Anderson—later named "the best surfer ever at Narrabeen" by Australia's Surfing Life magazine—initiated a board design sea change in 1981 by riding his newly developed tri-fin Thruster surfboard to consecutive wins at the Bells Beach Rip Curl Pro and the Surfabout. A short list of other Narrabeen notables includes Australian champion Col Smith, world pro champion Damien Hardman, surf industrialist Bruce Raymond, pro surfers Mark Warren, Nathan Hedge, Nathan Webster, and Laura Enever, aerialist Ozzie Wright, and world kneeboarding champions Mike Novakov and Simon Farrer.
Narrabeen has been featured in dozens of surf movies and videos, including The Young Wave Hunters (1964), Tracks (1970), A Winter's Tale (1974), The Swell (1983), and Madmen '93 (1994). In 2009, Narrabeen was named a National Surfing Reserve.