The Original Beach Icon

 Surfers Paradise in the 1940s1940s Surfers Paradise Beach Scene

The three iconic kilometres of golden beach fronting Surfers Paradise have been a drawcard for people the world over for more than 100 years.

Surfers Paradise was born in 1933 when hotelier Jim Cavill pushed for the renaming of Elston, the area south across the Nerang River from the town of Southport.

A stroke of marketing genius, 'Surfers Paradise' pipped 'Sea Glint' as the coastal hideaway's new handle...and stands today as a name synonymous with one of the world's most dynamic urban beach destinations.

That distinctive coastal alchemy has acted as a magnet to a wide variety of larger-than-life characters, figures that many say have made the area what it is today.

This evolving rank of community leaders, colourful personalities and business identities have, over the decades, found new and exciting ways to combine Surfers' vibrant energy with bold visions of what the area can become.

Iconic names such as Ironman Trevor Hendy, bikini innovator Paula Stafford and Meter Maids founder Bernie Elsey have all contributed in different ways to the area's diverse history. Hendy epitomises our fresh and healthy beach culture, while Stafford's innovations with the French-designed bikini played a role in shaping the clothing item that - more than any other - is associated with Surfers Paradise.

For his part, Elsey embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that has thrived on our strip of paradise. When council introduced parking metres to Surfers Paradise in 1965, Elsey formed a troupe of Meter Maids to feed tourists' metres and save them from fines.

Clad in skimpy gold outfits, Surfers Paradise Meter Maids came to symbolise the area's willingness to adapt to light-hearted, some might say 'cheeky', innovation.

It's the capacity of Surfers Paradise to move forward - to stay relevant - that's seen as a big factor in the coastal playground's 'everyday popularity' and a catalyst for huge numbers of visitors drawn here each year.

Any day of the year, a diverse range of nationalities and demographics are drawn to Surfers' white sands and rolling Pacific Ocean waves.

That's why decades after Jim Cavill gave the area a name that exemplifies its character, Surfers Paradise remains at heart and soul of what paradise is truly about.

Surfers Paradise SLSC Nippers 1930s Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club Nippers, 1930, Queensland, photographer George Jackman

1930s

  • 1935 Cyril Burcher rides the first surf ski at Surfers Paradise Beach after importing it from Hawaii.

 1940s - 1950s

  • 1947 Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club is established.
  • 1952 Paula Stafford adds her take to the controversial French bikini.

 1960s - 1970s

  • Although western surfing began at the end of the '50s, Australia's surf culture explodes in the '60s and '70s, a movement that goes on to shape the identity of Surfers Paradise and then the global surfing community.

1980s - 1990s

  • 1984 Surf lifesaving drama The Coolangatta Gold is released, showcasing Surfers Paradise on the silver screen.  The race itself captured Australia's imagination and helped launch the Australian Ironman Series.
  • 1987 Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club's Trevor Hendy won his first Australian Ironman Series championship.

Gallery