By Martin (Marty) Olsen
A true island paradise lies just off the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and is surrounded by mystical tales. Certainly, those surfers who have braved the rather sharky and treacherous 1 kilometre paddle out from the shore discovered a true surfing wonderland. Depending on the swell and wind conditions, the island can provide some of the best surfing available in the region. It works well from 2’ to 10’ and sometimes bigger in the right conditions. The left is a perfect barrelling point come reef break wave while the rights are more treacherous and ledgy.
The history of the island is full of legends, some true and some are tall tales. There were stories that Sean Connery (the 007 actor) owned and lived on the island in the ’70s with his then wife Dianne Cilento (a local girl). However, this was just a local tale. He in fact never even went to the island.
The early owner of the island was John Sewell (a retired pilot) who purchased the island in the ’60s and hand-built a small stone cottage where he and his family spent a lot of time in their island paradise. I was fortunate enough to meet John in the mid ’70s just after he had decided to leave the island and was heading overseas on a new adventure. He asked us if we would keep an eye on his cabin for him while he was away travelling, as he knew we were regular surfers there. He took us for a tour of the island and his cabin and proudly shared his incredible knowledge of the island and its inhabitants. He even had a detailed hand-drawn map of the island on one wall of the cabin, which meticulously mapped everything including the local wildlife habitats.
In 1985 Peter Troy then bought the lease of the island as a surfing hideaway. Peter was one of the great surfing adventurers, travellers and a global ambassador of surfing and so the island was a fitting hideaway. Read our previous blog story about Peter here!
The island gained some surfing cult fame in the 80’s when Jack McCoy produced a short video called “Kong’s Island” which featured Kong (Gary Elkerton) and his mates, Rabbit Bartholomew and Chappy Jennings.
The island and the wide stretch of sea between it and the mainland have been notorious for sharks. My own personal “close encounter” with a shark happened here. In the late 70’s we met a very large Bronze Whaler shark who seriously tried to have us for dinner. Fortunately, one of our mates was on a large wooden surf ski and managed to get to us before something really nasty happened. However, the shark did come up from below and knocked us all back into the water again and caused a serious dose of panic. The shark then followed just behind us all the way back to shore where the local camp ranger had seen the action and had already called the local Surf Life Savers from Maroochydore and the police and ambulance. Thankfully, we surfed safely to shore.
Today the island is uninhabited and is now an Environmental Park. The surf still rolls in and sharks still keep a regular patrol. It is not a place for the inexperienced or faint-hearted but is a true Island Paradise!