Bells Beach, Victoria
Bells Beach is a coastal locality of Victoria, Australia in Surf Coast Shire and a renowned surf beach, located 100 km south-west of Melbourne, on the Great Ocean Road near the towns of Torquay and Jan Juc.
It is named after William Bell, a Master Mariner, who owned much of the property there since the 1840s. Many records wrongly accredit the locations name to John Calvert Bell of the family that took up a pastoral run there much later in 1905 and building the ‘Addiscot’ homestead. John Calvert Bell was, before that time, a resident at Calder Park, Mount Duneed, and not related to William Bell of Bells Beach. The beach and coastal reserve are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
In the 2016 Census, there were 130 people in Bells Beach. 88.7% of people were born in Australia and 94.5% of people spoke only English at home.
Bells Beach is the home of the world’s longest continuously running surfing competition – now known as the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. The event was formerly known as the Bells Easter Classic (among a variety of other titles). The competition was first held in January 1962 and then at Easter every year since although occasionally, when conditions at Bells aren’t suitable, the competition has been transferred to other breaks such as Johanna and Woolamai.
As early as 1939, surfers from Torquay made their way to Bells but access was a considerable problem until 1960, when Torquay surfers and Olympic wrestler Joe Sweeney hired a bulldozer and cleared a road along the Bells cliff  from the Cobb & Co Road, where the concrete wave now stands, down to the beach. He charged one pound per surfer to recover his expenses. This is now part of the Surf Coast walking track.
Nearby surf breaks include “Southside”, “Centreside”, “Rincon”, “Winki Pop”, (Uppers and Lowers), “Boobs” and “Steps”. Although Bells is known internationally as one of the best breaks in Victoria, “Winki Pop” often works better under more diverse conditions than the other nearby breaks.
The first “Surfboard Rally” at Bells Beach was organized by surfing pioneers Peter Troy and Vic Tantau to help promote sales of T Boards their own brand. Planned to run in December 1961 the event was postponed until January 26 1962. From the following year the Australian Surf rider’s Association – ASA (Victorian Branch) – Now called Surfing Victoria hosted and staged the annual surfing competition at Bells Beach held at Easter each year. The ASA also ran the conservation contest at Bells Beach which included tree planting in an effort to help preserve natural values every year since the mid-1970s.
Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE)
In 1988 a group of local surfers who were concerned about the human impact that tourism was having on the Bells Beach Surfing Reserve started a group called Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment. Since 1988 they have met monthly to revegetate the reserve in an effort to bring it back to its original state. They have planted over 100,000 plants there to date.
In popular culture
Although the final scene of the film Point Break is set at Bells Beach, the scene was not filmed there. Bells Beach is a straight stretch and the beach in the film is a cove with spruce trees atop a hill. The actual location of the film was a beach called Indian Beach, in Ecola State Park, located in Cannon Beach, Oregon, United States.
Bells Beach is visited in the 1966 documentary film The Endless Summer.
In the 2007 animation film Surf’s Up, the Australian surfer is shown to be from Bells Beach.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). “Bells Beach (State Suburb)”. 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- “Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve (H2261)”. Victorian Heritage Register. Heritage Victoria. Retrieved 2014-03-23.
- Heritage Council of Victoria Annual Report 2003-04
Bells Beach Facebook community – www.facebook.com/bellsbeachtorquay
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