Sport Other Sports Why we love Bells to death

Why we love Bells to death

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That three-finned surfboard under your arm, you love it don’t you? It’s fast and firm when the waves are good, and just about everyone is riding them, right?

All over the country, every weekend, kids return to the family car, snot falling from their noses after being out in pounding surf, all carrying the same thing: three-finned surfboards. Thrusters. It is the eminent design in surfboards, copied by thousands of manufacturers throughout the world. There has been no more important advancement in surfboard design in the 100 years prior, or 32 years following it’s historic unveiling, than those three fins under your feet.

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Bet you’d like to know where this pioneering design was first revealed? It was at Bells Beach, 1981.

By an Australian named Simon Anderson, who should be bored by now having his personal wealth splattered shamelessly every year in the BRW rich list, but who in reality still ekes out a living making surfboards, mostly thrusters, against competitors who probably don’t even know where the design came from. It’s a tragedy of Australian business and surfing that Big Simon still has to work.

Mark Richards in the death-defying conditions of 1981. Photo: AAP

In 1981, a swell arrived just as the world’s best surfers came to town. Those who visit Bells for a surf or even a sticky-beak will know as soon as they make the left-hand turn into Bones Rd if a big swell is in: when a southern-hemi groundswell makes its way into Bells, waves stack the horizon like corduroy, line after line after line.

This day, during the Easter break in 1981, was like no other: the sea was so big it was dangerous, the winds so clean and offshore that the waves rolled through like road trains. The storm system produced all-time snow dumps on Thredbo and the Victorian snowfields that haven’t been bettered since. A lot of surfers were scared, it was around 15 feet. Simon pulled out his new design and surfed his heart out; beating all of his heroes: Michael Peterson, Mark Richards, Tom Carroll – the very best surfers of the time.

This day would go down in history, and is still considered one of the most important days in the history of Australian surfing: for its size, its talent and a design revolution that would change the industry forever.

When you get to Bells this year, and you see the number of surfers riding thrusters, you will now have the power of knowing the history.

If you do decide to hit Bells for the Easter tournament, here’s some other important advice:

The Scene: They will play Hell’s Bells by AC/DC at least 200 hundred times a day, really loud. It is a song that is synonymous with the event and it’s roots are set deep in the 80s. It ain’t going anywhere so get used to it.

Best viewing position: Pack a picnic blanket and take your own food. If you are lucky you will score a carpark at Winki Pop and get a front row seat, but if you don’t, it’s all good. Take your blanket, your family, and your goodies and find a spot along the beach. It’s still great viewing.

Social: If you are a media hack, try and get a late invite to the media night. I suspect it’s on Thursday. Get a ticket and have your mind ruined for the Easter break.

Autographs: Do approach the surfers for autographs. They will always sign things for the kiddies, and surfing is one of the few sports where the public get unfettered access to the stars. Yes, there are ropes cordoning them off, but during times when they are not competing you can often find them out in the crowd watching the event.

Surf: Do take a surfboard and get out in the waves. Most of the surfers will warm up at Winki Pop – a glorious wave just north of the main Bells Beach break – this is the one time of the year you’ll get to surf with Kelly Skater 10 feet away. As always give them space, and enjoy the quality of their turns.

Simon Anderson dropping into a massive wave in 1981. Photo: AAP


When to go: Best day to go is this week will be Sunday morning, but a new, solid swell is expected later into next week.

Stay: The caravan park right in Torquay front beach is a beauty, affordable, great showers and bathrooms, and close to everything, including the gentle waves of Point Danger. Might be busy though, best to get on the phone now.

Coffee: You might have packed the esky with treats for the day, but you need a decent paid-for coffee, right? Best on the Surf Coast is at the newly-renovated Swell Café at the Bird Rocks shops in Jan Juc, ask for Scotty (the owner) and Ryan (his protégé) by name.

Sandbar Café: Right in the main street of Torquay next the Commonwealth bank. Very long-established café with richly-brewed café and quality eats at an affordable price. Owner Nick is a rusted-on Surf Coast fellow. Big chance you will also spt a few surf stars in here getting their fix as well.

Dinner: A big day of indulging yourself in surfing means you owe the wife a good outing. For the absolute best meal on the Surf Coast, book in for dinner at the Bellbrae Harvest, just a few minutes from Bells. One of the best food experiences of your life awaits. Others: well, we don’t mind the RACV resort’s main restaurant, great food, steaks and views over the golf course; Swell café in Jan Juc is amazing for lunch and dinner; the Japanese Restaurant among the surf shops is also high quality and fresh; and the Thai restaurant near the Torquay Hotel is also favourite.

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