The Rip Curl Classic at Bells Beach is the world’s longest running professional surfing event. Located in a rural setting outside Torquay in Victoria, it is held every Easter.

The timing of it has often been an obstacle, but this year, 2013, the 52nd, I got to attend mid-event. It was raining when I arrived, though fortunately, for us spectators, it soon passed. 

The waves were big, though lumpy (my terminology), but the surfers were happy with them. I have never tried surfing, but it’s enjoyable to watch. It’s mesmerising and calming, contemplative – a bit like gazing at a camp fire. A surfer dances along the wall of water; a briefly flickering brilliance shaped by environmental whim. Of course surfing also offers the spectacular; just like a fire can sometimes be explosive. Does this explain why surfers are always stoked?

Bells Beach
Accidental art – Rip Curl 2009

Enough fiery metaphor. The bottom line – surfing’s more than a sport.

The live commentary was chatty and entertaining, mixing hyperbole, optimism and suspense, with enthusiastic references to ‘huge snaps’, ‘big walls’, and ‘outrageous sets’; as surfers ‘throw it up the lip’, ‘carve that section’, ‘get bombed’ and ‘go straight over the handlebars’, or ‘run hot’, ‘jamming it up the corner’, and ‘hammer the nail’ to score ‘huge numbers’.

Below is a short video of Taj Burrow, dare I say it, on fire.

(Please excuse the audio quality)

 

 

It’s a bit of a mystery why a surfer sometimes chooses to let pass what appears to be a good wave. I guess it’s due to tactics, hesitancy, or backing that a better set is coming – often it does, but not always. The waves on this day were tricky though: they tended to break inconsistently and flatten in the middle section. The rides are long at Bells, 100 – 200 metres, and give the surfers ample scope to perform their repertoire when they do pick the right one.

Here’s another vid – of Dusty Payne this time.

Overall, the Rip Curl Classic at Bells is more like a community occasion than a professional sporting event. Entry is cheap, competitors are relaxed and accessible, and there’s a band playing later in the day to entertain over a few beers – usually outside, but under a marquee this year.

When the tide reached its peak, organisers stopped spectators descending to the beach. One shouldn’t leave children unattended …or your pair of thongs for that matter: mine were washed out to sea by a rogue wave. Temporary stands and platforms on top of the cliff embracing Bells provided a viewing alternative. Competition finished for the day around 3.30pm. It was windy and cool by then, and I made a delicate walk back to the carpark in bare feet tenderised by sea water.

This year’s event was won by Adriano de Souza and Carissa Moore. They were stoked.

Below are pics of Bells in and out of competition.

Bells Beach Rip Curl Classic
Joel Parkinson entering the water in 2009. He won that year.

Sometimes competition is moved to Winkipop, which is at the northern end of the bowl. The two photos below are from there in 2011.

Bells Beach Rip Curl Classic

Bells Beach Rip Curl Classic
Etching a line on the face of a wave

Meanwhile, back at Bells on the same day, non-competing surfers were having a ball in the bowl.

Bells Beach

Bells Beach Rip Curl Classic
During the finals in the Bells bowl, 2011
Bells Beach Rip Curl Classic
Joel Parkinson won it that year too
Bells Beach
Bells in mid winter

The photos below are from April, 2013, when conditions were prime.

Bells Beach - Rincon

Bells Beach - Rincon

Bells Beach
Foam tsunami

Bells Beach

Bells Beach

Bells Beach

Bells Beach

If you arrive outside tournament time you might get to see a mob of kangaroos disappearing into the bush opposite the reserve, such is the naturalness of the setting.

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