A $100 million Kelly Slater Surfing Ranch boasting tourism accommodation, event and training facilities, public open space and an environmental experience centre is to be built at Coolum on the Sunshine Coast.
The ranch, the first outside of the US, is likely to establish the Sunshine Coast internationally as Australia’s surfing capital.
World Surf League (WSL) and a development partner have earmarked a large parcel of land close to the Sunshine Motorway at Coolum and ten minutes from the Sunshine Coast Airport for the ambitious project.
The original Californian Kelly Slater Surfing Ranch, developed by the 11-time surfing world champion to create the perfect wave environment for practice and feedback monitoring, can only be used for six months of the year because of rapid temperature falls through winter.
WSL General Manager Andrew Stark said the seasonality had prompted the search for a new location, saying: “We picked the Sunshine Coast because of the temperatures year-round and the DNA of the area.
“We love that (it’s) very environmentally conscious, that’s what we are, and it fits with the surf ranch philosophy.”
Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford said the announcement was a reflection of the Queensland region’s reputation as a premium sporting destination.
“Having a global name associated with such a high-tech surfing project could really elevate sports tourism to new levels on the Sunshine Coast, attracting international teams, training camps and surfing fans,” he said.
The facility in California created the first repeatable man-made wave able to deliver the power and shape of ocean waves most sought after by accomplished surfers, including a hollow barrel allowing for long tube rides.
While high-performance surfing was the original core mission of Kelly Slater, the wave technology’s flexibility and ability to create variable waves for beginner and intermediate surfers extended its potential as a major tourism attraction.
The announcement comes in the same week that the Sunshine Coast was confirmed as the venue for the 2021 ‘Aussies’, Surf Life Saving’s premier surf sports event, and follows the announcement of a bid by the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and Gold Coast to host the 2032 Olympic Games.
Andrew Stark says WSL’s commitment to sustainability across the globe would ensure the development struck the right balance between economic development and sustainable growth for the coast.
“It means creating a green environment for the community, delivering high-value eco-tourism and attracting more visitors to the region,” he said.
Mr Latchford agreed, saying the tourism body was “very mindful” that the development must fit the approval criteria laid down by Sunshine Coast Council and the Queensland government.
The Visit Sunshine Coast chief said sports tourism could significantly boost the region’s economy.
“The Sunshine Coast is already well-established as one of Australia’s most popular destinations for water-based events and holidays, but with the Kelly Slater name attached to the surf ranch, it could give our region even greater appeal internationally,” he said.
“In the past three years we’ve managed to combine our natural assets as a sporting haven with a far greater professionalism, which has culminated in Sunshine Coast Lightning’s unprecedented success on the national stage.
“We have been highly successful in attracting domestic and international sporting teams to train on the Sunshine Coast, we are now a venue for the national football codes and, of course, we have hosted a wide range of international and national surfing, triathlon and ironman competitions in the past.
“With the new runway set to transform Sunshine Coast Airport’s capacity next year, the sky is indeed the limit for the Sunshine Coast’s sporting aspirations.”