For one day each year, motorbikes tear along the sand of a North Queensland beach at 200kph, blasting the skin of any competitor who falls behind.

For riders, it’s worth every scratch for the chance to gain the prestigious title, King of the Beach.

But 24-year-old rider Chloe Purvis has her sights set on revving up enough interest from female riders to create another title: Queen of the Beach. 

Her efforts to attract female competitors to this year’s Grasstree Beach event, which is held just south of Mackay, meant, for the first time in the race’s 97-year history, there were enough riders to create a separate women’s class.

The Grasstree Beach race starts with a series of qualifiers, then the top 10 earn a ticket to the King of the Beach final, where riders charge through five laps of the 750-metre track skirting around barrels at either end.

Group of women stand with two motorbikes smiling at camera.

Chloe Purvis, in front, with other female riders who competed in a class of their own this year.(Supplied)

Unfortunately, none of the female riders made it to the final, held on Sunday, but Purvis remains undaunted in her mission to attract more women to motorbike racing.

Faded photograph of three tents, a truck and lots of motorbikes on the beach on a sunny day.

The Motorcycle Beach Races started in 1926. This photograph was taken in the 1970s. (Supplied: VMX Whitsunday)

An old photo of five men on old school motorbikes parked on a beach.

An early race on Bucasia Beach in North Queensland. The race moved to Grasstree Beach about 20 years ago.(Supplied: VMX Whitsunday)

Driving force for female riders

When Purvis contacted the Grasstree Beach Race organisers, they told her she had to find 10 women who could compete in order to create a separate category.

After using social media to get the word out, Purvis set up a group chat with other female riders she had competed against around the country, and by race day the women’s class had a full grid.

A young woman stands smiling with the beach in the background holding a 3rd place sign.

Chloe Purvis came third in this year’s Grasstree Beach Race women’s class.(ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

It wasn’t the first time Purvis had rallied to get a women’s race on the agenda.

She started riding with friends in 2019 and, just a year later, was called up to compete in the Queensland Dirt Track Titles.

Red welts on a girl's arm.

Riders get ‘roost rash’ from sand hitting their skin. (ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

“I think there were only one or two girls and we had to have a minimum of five girls in flat track to get a class, and they hit me up,” Purvis said.

“That was my first race, the Queensland titles event, and it was terrifying but so much fun and that just got me hooked on racing.

“I love going fast but it’s the adrenaline, it’s the atmosphere.”

Purvis’s love of racing has taken her around Australia, and she’s used to hauling gear from town to town on her own.

But she says despite doing it solo, the community’s support means she rarely feels like she’s doing it alone.

Motorbikes and riders start race side by side on the beach with sand flying behind them.

It’s hoped there will be enough female competitors to hold a Queen of the Beach race in the future.(ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

Women on the rise

Brittany O’Brien, 29, grew up in a racing family but said she never really pursued the sport.

“My brothers used to race, and I used to just be in the pits kicking around in the mud,” O’Brien said.

But four children later, the sport now has O’Brien hooked.

A women in motorbike leathers and sunglasses stands with a red motorbike.

Mum-of-four Brittany O’Brien has recently found her love of racing.(Supplied: Brittany O’Brien)

She said it was inspiring to see how many women had also taken it up in the past two decades.

“When you’re out there on the straight and you’re looking over and there’s another girl pushing you, that makes you want to do your best,” O’Brien said.

A woman wearing sunglasses and a T-shirt stands handing 2nd place sign.

Brittany O’Brien came second in the Motorcycle Beach Races and fourth in the Australian Dirt Track Championships this year.(ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

She said the stigmas about women motorbike racers were slowly being broken down.

“Everywhere you go now there is a women’s event but the majority of the women like to ride with the men because they just give it their all,” she said.

“They are not scared to push you off the track, which … I don’t mind because that pushes you to ride as hard as you can.”

A smiling woman holds a child on her hip while she stands with three other boys and a man.

Brittany O’Brien says three of her four sons are involved in the sport and her husband is now the designated “mechanic” of the family.(Supplied: Brittany O’Brien)

Queen of the Beach

Motorbike Beach Races lifetime member Steven Eden said it was great to have more women in the sport.

“We’ve had some women compete before but to be recognised and have their own class is certainly a big step forward,” he said.

Like Purvis, Mr Eden hopes that with momentum for women in the sport building, there will be enough riders in the coming years to crown a Queen of the Beach at the Grasstree Beach event.