Killalea National Surfing Reserve was declared in June 2009 and covers “The Farm” and “Mystics” beaches within the Killalea State Park, near Shellharbour on the NSW south coast. The state park features 250 hectares of pristine coastal reserve with some of the best surfing beaches on the south coast. Close to Sydney, but seemingly miles away.
The Local Environment:
These beaches are a phenomenon within a complex natural landscape. Killalea State Park extends along eight kilometres of coastline between Shell Harbour to the north and Kiama to the south. Rocky headlands formed 240 million years ago as lava flows rolled ans spilled toward the ocean. Subsepquent erosion and a raise of sea level led to the deposition of golden silica rich sands to form the parks two beaches, Killalea or The Farm and Mystics.
As our country and the rest of the world becomes more focused on the coastal lifestyle we must ensure we preserve and protect our unique beaches so that future generations may have the pleasure we enjoy now. The Farm is one such unique place, and deserves to be preserved as it is for our children and grandchildren.
Mark Richards: 4 x World Surfing Champion
Killalea State Park is of regional conservation value for its biodiversity. At an ecosystem level, it may be claimed the park is unique in the number of ecosystems it contains. These ecosystems include health, tall shrubland, littoral rain forest, dry sub-tropical rain forest, coastal dunes, wetland, rocky shores, grassland, mangroves and salt marsh. The existence of such variety of ecosystems is more incredulous considering the relatively small area of the park.
This unique natural heritage and the causes and effects of human impacts are frequently the source of inspiration for school students and teachers visting the park. For example, upon the headland north of The Farm, CSIRO and University of Wollongong scientists recently worked side by side with students from twelve local schools as volunteers during residential conservation research expeditions. Their purpose was to determine the success of a new biological control upon the invasive Bitou bush. Also, within this same ecosystem exists Pimelea Spicata, a small shrub that is classified as rare and endangered through habitat loss.
The barrier dunes of Killalea Beach protect the wetland area of Killalea Lagoon. This Lagoon is a significant breeding ground for black swans and is inhabited at different times of the year by up to sixty-six species of bird. The Rare and endangered green and golden bell frog is also known to occur within the lagoon.
From the air, Mystics Beach appears as an elongated finger, stretching from the rocky headland toward the volcanic outcrop known as Stack Island (aka Rangoon Island). This stretch of beach forms a sand spit, behind which is the estuary of Minnamurra River. Minnamurra is Aboriginal for many fish. A diversity of marine species occupy a variety of marine habitats, including rock platforms, sea grass beds, mangrove forests, mud/sand flats, salt marsh and deep flowing water. During Winter and Spring the headlands offer outstanding vantage points for observing the annual migration of humpback whales between the cooler water of the Antarctic and the sheltered waters of southeast Queensland.
Further back from the health of the grassy headlands exists remnants of sub-tropical rain forest. Giant stinging tress, huge figs, with buttressed roots, brilliantly coloured Illawarra Flame trees and Bloodwood emerge from shallow soils strewn with volcanic boulders. While the sands of Minnamurra Spit support a unique stand of littoral rain forest nestled between the coastal fore-dunes on the beach and Minnmurra Rivers high tide.
The Illawarra region was first inhabited by the Elouera, Korelwal and Jerrungarugh tribes who lived inside the boundaries of the Dharawal Nation and spoke the Dharawal language.
The land at Killalea State Park was very important to the Aboriginal people for it was an abundant land for food, making hunting tools and providing sacred areas for women’s business. Aboriginal middens were to be found at The Farm and these places were important for food gathering and preparation much like the modern day kitchen to be found in our present day homes.
The land was abundant with bush tucker and the sea provided the people with a variety of seafood. Special tress in the Killalea area were also used to make hunting spears and boomerangs for the people with the large fig trees providing fibrous fruit, shelter for birthing and covering for special women’s meetings including social bonding.
The surfing community would like to acknowledge and honour the aboriginal people as the original stewards of this sacred land.
The First Surfers:
In about 1960 or 61, Dave Milnes, Blake Bisaker and Don Freeman were looking for waves at The Shallows and there was nothing, so Blake Bisaker wandered up a big hill at the southern end of the bay, and when he a reached the top he started waving his arms like a crazy man!
The beach was surrounded by a Farm House, and with permission granted by a hesitant old lady, we were driving through pot-holes towards to the beach break Blake Bisaker had witnessed only moments earlier.
A few seasons later Dave Milnes had photos in Surfing World Magazine. So when the Sydney guys found this place… that was that.
The Waves – The Farm:
The Farm and Mystics are the two surfing beaches in Killalea State Park and they are no more than five hundred metres apart. The two beaches are extremely unique unto each other in the way that they are polar opposites – they offer a completely different surfing experience to the surfer.
It was affectionately given the name “The Farm” because the only way to access to the beach was through a private property farm. The Farm itself had several paddocks located around the lagoon, on beach frontage and south through to Mystics. In the early days it was an honesty system where the farmer simply asked for the gates be closed after entering. However gates were carelessly left open and the farmer took action by locking the gates, but eventually allowed people through for a small fee of a few shillings.
The Farm offers a largely deep water, open rolling wave with an extremely long inshore impact zone. This allows the surfer to ride for two to four hundred metres allowing you to pack in enough manoeuvres to make your legs go to jelly.
The Farm caters to all surfing abilities from beginner to advanced, because it is generally regarded as a user-friendly wave until it reaches the six foot mark and beyond. When the Farm goes over the six foot mark it gives the surfer a genuine big wave experience with big open faces, extremely long wipe-out hold downs and a fitness challenge to get back out to the line-up. If you desire, it gives you the opportunity to break out your guns at the eight foot mark and put them to good use drawing long, hard turns that can be a welcome change from always riding the modern short board. In fact, The Farm allows surfers to ride any type of board such is the versatility of its conditions.
One of the most important and unique facts about The Farm is that it faces to the south catching the south swell that predominantly runs up the coastline and is offshore in a northeast wind. This is why The Farm is loved and cherished above all because when summer rolls around and everywhere else is flat and bown out, you can arrive at The Farm and look down upon this secluded piece of paradise and find it just happens to be four to six foot, offshore and epic! If this is not enough to make you happy on a hot summer’s day, you will notice that whilst in the water looking towards land, there is no trace of modern civilisation to be found… Just you, the surf and the earth.
The Waves – Mystics:
Mystics, on the other hand, is a true-blue Australian kick-butt beach that is short, peaky, thick and wedge-like that is really for the intermediate to advanced surfer when it is truly ding its thing. Its uniqueness stems from the fact that southeast swells which march in and bound off the northern rocky headland and travel diagonal to the beach.
This forms a peak, after peak, after peak, as they cross over the swells that are heading toward the beach. At Mystics, you have to surf fast, tight and in the pocket or quite simply set your rail from the moment your feet connect with the board and backdoor the peak for a barrel. Mystics can be full of adrenalin and excitement because beyond the three to four mark, you really are putting your board and body on the line. At size, you are more likely to be slammed onto a sand bar whereas at The Farm, the main issue is drowning… ah yes even wipe-outs are polar opposites.
Mystics was given its name because when it was first discovered by surfers, the sea mist met the land fog creating a mystical surfing spot, hence the name. There will be no fitness endurance tests at Mystics either due to the short impact zone, so after you have dusted the sand off, its usually a couple of strokes until you are out the back again which means plenty of waves in a short period of time… unlike The Farm.
The Form And Its Magic: Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew
“The Farm is one of those rare, mythological destinations that evoke strong feelings in my surfing bones. I first heard of this surf break in the early 1970s, it was a favoured stop-off for travelling bands and gypsy surfers that lived this bohemian lifestyle, chasing waves up an down the East Coast of Australia”
“The Beauty about this little nook is that one can literally go back in time, to a time and space that many coastal communities can only reminisce about. That is why the recreational surfers, the members of the Southbridge Boardriders Club and the local community are working so hard to have this beach gazetted as a National Surfing Reserve. To my mind The Farm is an iconic Aussie surf break, it represents the soul of Australian surfing, the very image of this area takes us back to simpler days when enjoying the pristine coastal environment was what life was all about”
“It is places like The Farm that underpin the very essence of a lifestyle that has become synonymous with Australia as a nation. This is what we are about, this country is so blessed to have these amazing works of nature. The Farm is a rare gem nestled within an awesome stretch of coastline. Let us keep it this way”