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Your guide to the Coolangatta Gold 2018

Your guide to the Coolangatta Gold 2018
on 13 September 2018 in Events & Entertainment

What is the Coolangatta Gold, you ask? The Coolangatta Gold is one of the most enduring races in surf sports. If you’re interested in attending this year’s Cooly Gold 2019, check out our 2019 Guide to the Coolangatta Gold here.

It was first held in 1984, when film writer Peter Schrek was writing a movie about ironman legend Grant Kenny. He wanted to include a part about competing in the “Coolangatta Gold”, a race that would see competitors run from Surfers Paradise in the north to Burleigh Heads in the south, wade to Tallebudgera Creek, ocean swim towards Currumbin and then board from Bilinga to Coolangatta before jumping on a ski and paddling all the way back to Surfers Paradise.

The producers of the movie decided that rather than stage the event, they would hold an actual event instead.

Many well-known ironmen competed, but it was 18-year-old Guy Leech from Manly that took the title. He went on to win again in 1985 and 1989.

The Coolangatta Gold, while hugely popular, took some momentum to get going. It took a break for a couple of years, returning in 1991 and 1992. It then took another break, returning in 2005. Since then it’s been held every year and the competition just keeps getting stronger. The competition now includes iron women too.

The course is still in the same location but its route and expectations has changed slightly. Competitors now:

  • Surfski from Surfers Paradise to Greenmount SLSC
  • Run from Greenmount SLSC to Coolangatta SLSC
  • Swim from Coolangatta SLSC to Bilinga SLSC
  • Run from Bilinga SLSC to Currumbin SLSC
  • Board from Currumbin SLSC to Burleigh Heads SLSC
  • Run from Burleigh Heads SLSC to Surfers Paradise

The race takes around 5-6 hours to complete and competitors are forced to battle both surf and coastal elements. The course for women is slightly shortened.

Last year 53 men and women in the elite fields competed and it was Ali Day that took the title for the men (for the fifth time) and Courtney Hancock for the women (for the third time). It was an emotional event, with a tribute to Gold Coast Iron Man Dean Mercer, who sadly lost his life just a month prior. All competitors, including the 700 other competitors, wore black wristbands with the inscription “Doing it for Dean”.

Competing: how to enter?

Entries are now open for the Coolangatta Gold 2018 – Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 October 2018 – so if you think you’ve got what it takes to be part of the competition, enter now. You can choose to enter as an individual or as part of a team and you can choose either the long or short course. There are categories for each, so choose the category that’s appropriate for you. There are also restrictions, so make sure you have a read of these before you enter.

Long course

The long course is designed for the endurance surf sport competitor who is up for the ultimate challenge. It’s a gruelling 41.8km that tests athletes to the absolute limit. You must be 19 years and over to compete and you should be prepared for a:

  • 23km ski
  • 2.1km run
  • 3.5km swim
  • 6.1km board
  • 7.1km run

Prize money is available to the first six people over the line:

1st place: $18,000
2nd place: $7,000
3rd place: $4,000
4th place: $3,000
5th place: $2,000
6th place: $1,000

Short course

The short course is designed for the everyday endurance athlete that’s generally very fit. It’s for those who want maximum engagement with the fans and a great atmosphere that will help inspire. The course is 21 km of surf sports endurance action and again you must be 19 years and over to compete. Be prepared for a:

  • 10.5km ski
  • 2km swim
  • 3km board
  • 5.5km run

There is no prize money for the short course, but there is the satisfaction of completing something that is undoubtedly tough.


The younger generation isn’t left out of the Coolangatta Gold with Sunday 7 October being all about the youth challenge. Open to under 11s, 12s, 13s, 14s, 15s and under 16s the course consists of a:

  • 300m soft sand run
  • 400m swim
  • 400m run
  • 500m board
  • 50m run

The race concludes at the elite finish arch where a crowd with be waiting to applaud. Note that all ages are taken from the day of the event and no competitors under the age of 10 years will be considered.

You can download all of the course maps here and we recommend downloading the Coolangatta Gold 2018 Team App which will send out updates and notifications to competitors.

Entries for all events close on Friday 28 September.

Getting the family involved

The Coolangatta Gold is a mass display of superhuman strength and stamina. For kids brought along by their parents, it’s a lesson that teaches them that they can do anything. Most people would curl in a ball at the mere thought of such a race but these iron men and women make the combination of surf skiing, running, swimming and paddleboarding look easy. 

The Coolangatta Gold is a family-friendly event that promises a whole heap of action. You can choose to follow the race along or you can perch up in a particular spot and enjoy the activities that are dotted along the course. You could also embrace the Coolangatta Gold spirit and hire bikes to ride along the promenade and around the town or you could enrol the kids in a surf lesson.

Alternatively, you could grab lunch at the Coolangatta Hotel and be part of the fun festivities. The Cooly Hotel is open from 9am until late on a weekend and is proud of this incredible sporting event. There’s lots of fun to be had at the Cooly. Check out our What’s On page to learn more about what’s happening. Rest assured that there will be live music, the action on the big screens and great food on offer in The Eatery. We recommend making a reservation, as weekends can get busy, especially during the Coolangatta Gold.

Why you should attend

The Coolangatta Gold is an iconic part of the Gold Coast’s, and Australia’s, sporting history. The more people who get involved the better so if you haven’t checked it out before, make sure you do in 2018. Book your table for lunch at the Coolangatta Hotel, slip on some sunscreen and a hat, get your cheer on and come on down. The Coolangatta Gold is an event not to be missed.