Lennox National Surfing Reserve is just north of Ballina on the north coast and includes the world-famous Lennox Point. The breaks at Lennox have been surfed since the late 1950s when surfing gained popularity throughout NSW. The point break is revered for its power and size, definitely for experienced surfers only.
The surfing location Lennox Point had its genesis 23 million years ago when the eruption of a volcano named “Mount Warning” began. When the volcano finished erupting it stood at a height of 2km. Layers of ash and lava had been deposited over its outward slopes, to a diameter of about 100km. This spread the volcanic over an area from Lismore in the south to Mount Tamborine in the north. Over the last 20 million years vast majority of the material has been eroded away, but what remains is still mighty impressive.
For those who have surfed the area “Mighty Impressive” is an apt description of the basalt rock headlands and white sand beaches, which have been surfed by men, women and children across numerous generations. Flat Rock, the southern border of the reserve area, can provide big surf on special occasions, but its normally gentle waves and sand beach provide a perfect training ground for the novice surfer or ageing mal rider. It became a popular spot to learn to surf schools, and nowdays there would be many a foreign backpacker who had his or her first surf at ‘Flattie’. However, there is a mean side to Flat Rock’s inter tidal rock platform: the south side left hander does not break often, but at its best is a dangerous and thrilling lefthand wave breaking in front of a rocky platform.
On a day such as this, Southside is for experienced surfers only. The northern Sharpes Beach area can produce good beach break waves, and proves popular even with experienced short boarders.
Boulder Beach, has been referred to as the backside of Lennox Point. Boulders is a step up from Flat Rock – it can hold reasonably big swell and, with its rocky shore and tricky entry points, is not a place for the novice surfer.
The local Nyangbal Bundjalong aboriginal people lived in the area of Lennox Point and travelled through these parts for thousands of years prior to European settlement.
The region provided rich abundance of food from the sea and land, dependent on seasons. The headland and beach environments were diverse, along with the forests and wetlands of surrounding areas, providing ample bush foods, seafood and animals.
It is told that there is a ceremonial ring out from Lennox Headland now under the Pacific Ocean that was possibly linked to the last remaining ceremonial ring still preserved of Gibbon Street in the Lennox village area, indicating the cultural heritage significance of the headland and the village environment in relation to the Lennox Point surf breaks. Aboriginal marine artefacts have been found out as far as the continental shelf, indicating that aboriginal people walked these extended lands that we now know as the continental shelf. This would have added another 20-35km of land to the east of the points when sea levels were lower.
East Ballina resident Barry Reagan doesn’t claim to be the first person to surf Lennox Point. “The alleged first surfer, ” he said with a grin, emphasising the word ‘alleged’, when told there is every chance that in fact, he was the first to do so when he paddled out in March 1958. These days he’s still surfing and what’s more he’s still making his own surfboards.
It seems that Lennox Point was first surfed following rumours that circulated the surfing community around Byron Bay at the time. In the 1960s the bitumen roads from Byron Bay stopped at Broken Head Hall, so the trip to Lennox Point was for the adventurous to say the least. Max Pendergast, one of the first to surf Lennox Point, remembers the long trip and more so the 6-8ft perfect waves when they arrived at this undiscovered location.
Slowly Lennox Point gained more notoriety, and by 1965 some Lismore guys and travelling surfers from Sydney had started to arrive, but it was never crowded. By this stage the surfers had discovered the delights of Flat Rock and Boulder Beach.
For many of the surfing crew from the Ballina-Lismore area in the 1960s and early 1970s there was a natural progression. Learn at the river mouth spot in Ballina known as The Bridge, step up a notch to Flat Rock, stage three was Boulders, and when you had surfed The Point on a solid day you had graduated.
It as a long time coming, but when it became reality in 1972, The Coast Road between Ballina and Lennox Head made access to the surfing locations a lot easier.
The idea of a road linking Ballina, Lennox Head and Byron Bay was first raised in 1891, but progress was slow and it wasn’t until 1961 that the then councils of Ballina and Tintenbar agreed to classify the planned coastal road to Lennox Head as a tourist road. It was another ten years before approval and funding from state government started the construction in 1971.
During the construction of this road, Jack Easter, an alderman on the Ballina council, donated a portion of land at the Lennox Head as a lookout. This stretch of NSW coastline is considered one of the most scenic and beautiful in the state.
From the earliest discoverers of Lennox Heads surf breaks to the grommets that ride the waves today, this truly beautiful and unique coastal area is now listed as National Surfing Reserve for all to enjoy forever.
Protecting the animals that live in the area, from the sea eagles that nest in the cliff, to the multitudes of marine life, whilst preserving and maintaining the surf culture surrounding Lennox Head. The quality of these waves breaking along these points has been inspirational in the development of modern surfing and equipment.
Share, Respect, Preserve is the ethos to be remembered within this important National Surfing Reserve.