Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surfer's Paradise and the Schoolies' Rite of Passage in the Gold Coast

Australians love the sun, and they congregate under its warm rays with ebullient spirits. Unlike many Asians who consider it a scourge to get a tan, Ausies bask in its splendor. After visiting Q1's SkyPoint (QDeck), it was an easy walk toward's Surfer's Paradise's beach front where, to my surprise, there were hundreds of teenage kids the locals refer as "Schoolies", the Australian tradition of high school students celebrating their graduation. West Australia calls them "leavers".

Schoolies is a week-long holiday following the end of their final exams in late November and early December. During and around this season, these teenagers descend all over beach communities, frolicking for what would be their last few days of fun prior to college. This is their final party with school mates before they go their separate ways.

The epicenter of Schoolies is the Gold Coast where this tradition began in 1979 (in Broad Beach, just south of Surfer's Paradise). Since then, it has evolved into a tradition; a cultural "rite of passage" not dissimilar to the North American "Spring Break". In Australia, it marks the transition from youth to adulthood, and Ausies take it seriously. You would see them trooping all over the country to popular holiday destinations, but this is most emphasized in the Gold Coast which gets inundated with hordes of teenagers.

Apartments and hotels get filled with these revelers, and problems related to boozing, drugs and teenage angst often manifest their ugly heads during these celebrations. In fact, a breaking news about a girl who jumped to her death (from her high-rise accommodations) found its way to news channels during my visit.

Meanwhile, Surfer's Paradise isn't just surfing paradise but Party Central as well.

The sand here is fine, but the current is strong and unstable, thus best for surfing. Surfer's Paradise is not merely a beach front property filled with high-rise buildings, but a suburb in itself, with a population close to 19,000. Compare that with Mandaluyong City's almost 330,000. Or San Juan's 121, 500. There's stark difference.

This suburb is also the entertainment capital of the region, highlighted by hundreds of shops in Cavill Mall. Cavill Avenue is particularly interesting. It's analogous to minor versions of Ayala Mall, or Eastwood Mall; KL's Bukit Bintang; or London's Leicester Square. I could just sit in a corner and watch people pass by, but more of that next post.

While my friend window shopped somewhere (she didn't want the sun on her face, like most Asians), I braved the heat, and found hundreds of teenagers lazing around, frolicking in the sea or getting their tans.

From the main entrance, right across Cavill Avenue, I walked south then eventually found my exit where, to my surprise, a sign was posted saying that the whole beach strip was exclusive for the schoolies for one whole week (from Saturday to Friday) and those who aren't schoolies shall be prohibited from using the beach for the duration of the holidays. Ooops! I was clearly unwanted there, but nobody cared. In fact, I saw several adults in the area (see photo below). It is easy to understand why such measures have been imposed.

After my walk, I headed back to Cavill to meet Girlie. That was all the sun I could handle... for now. Next up: Roaming Cavill Avenue and the commercial backbone of Surfer's Paradise's.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

This is the main entrance just opposite Cavill Avenue.

When one isn't enough! Ballers, anyone? These teenagers can't seem to have enough of these rubberized accessories (see above). They are everywhere! (See below.)

I saw this sign at the southern exit when I was leaving the beach.

"Toolies" or "Droolies" refers to older revelers who participate in Schoolies Week but are not high-school graduates. Folks shown above are probably foreign tourists like me.

Map indicating the coastline's bevy of beaches. Marina Mirage is supposedly the area's millionaire's row, but when we drove around, the houses looked smaller than expected. Broad Beach to the south was the origin of the Schoolies tradition but these days, it's a peaceful strip sans the crowd. 

For perspective, here's an aerial view of Surfer's Paradise and beyond facing the eastern seas. This photo only courtesy of


Ramakrishnan said...

Indeed a paradise. You have been busy clicking away the colorful beauties there :)

eye in the sky said...

@ Ram:

I tried to be "professional" about it. Haha. Thanks.