When you talk about surfing and Australia in the same sentence, Bells Beach will undoubtedly be at the top of any mention. It is praised as one of the world’s most famous surfing spots and is the pride of the Australian surfing community.
Bells Beach in Australia is globally recognized as one of the most famous surfing spots. It was founded in 1840 and made famous in 1960 by Joe Sweeney. It is renowned for three major wave types: the Rincon, Winki, and the Bowl. The Bowl wave can reach as high as 10 feet.
Although Bells Beach is open to any surfer, it is highly recommended that only experiences surfers tackle the monster waves. Let’s take a closer look at the history of Bells Beach and its infamous waves.
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Why Is Bells Beach Famous?
Bells Beach is mainly known for two major waves: the Rincon wave and the Bowl wave. The Rincon wave breaks when it is at high tide and crumples to the shore, but the Bowl wave is the most infamous and famous on Bells shore. The wave has reached as high as ten feet.
It will take a very experienced surfer to get on a high and mighty wave. Even the most experienced surfers will get a lot taken out of them with a big and strong wave.
The Bowl is one of the favorites when it comes to surfing in the winter. The wind gives rise to the big waves that go wonderfully with the reef break and give big waves. A lot of the time, surfers go after the Bowl’s clean wave since they offer enjoyable long waves.
The Rincon is one of the most famous spots on the coast and has become renowned for surfing because there are always ways to get there. The Rincon Classic is a competition that is now world-famous and attracts people from all over the world to come and spectate or participate in the events.
An additional Bells wave is the Winki Pop. This colossal wave breaks for 250 meters before it rises five to eight feet tall. The waves are split into two parts the Lowers and the Uppers. The trick is seamlessly transitioning from one to the other without falling.
During the waveforms, surfers can paddle to the front of the break. It is best to avoid taking the wave head-on when it rises.
Bells Beach has been introducing global surf competitions for years, the most admired of which is the Rip Curl Pro.
Bells Beach is on almost every surfer’s and traveler’s bucket list. But why is this slight stretch of sand so famous in a country renowned for its jaw-dropping beaches? To answer simply, it is the surf capital of Australia. And the surfing history runs deep at Bells.
Bells Beach History
A while before surfing reached the now-popular destination, the land surrounding Bells Beach was the home to the Gukidjan Aboriginal people. In the 1840s, a family with the last name Bell moved into the area and claimed the spot.
Only in 1957 a handful of Torquay Club Members followed the dirt road out of the town, went through the bush, and rode the waves at Bells Beach. In 1960, the surfing legend Joe Sweeney extended the old dirt road to Bells Beach.
The first surfing competition, the Bells Beach Easter Rally, was held the following year and has become a yearly event. This competition was famously held over the long Easter weekend to admire tradition. When 1973 came around, this event was added to the World Competitive Tour.
Bells Beach Trophy
As iconic as the place is, so is the trophy. Joe Sweeney made the first Bells Beach trophy and every other trophy after that until he passed away in 2016. The trophies always had the brass bell hanging from its mount, and it is one of any competitive surfer’s dreams and honor to ring the Bell.
There have only been 46 surfers in 1973 who had the privilege of ringing the Bell:
- 35% of the female winners are Australian
- 20 women and 26 men won the event
- 68% of the male winners are Australian
- Only two female and three male winners weren’t Australian, Hawaiian, or American
- In 1987 the youngest surfer to win at Bells Beach was a sixteen-year-old Aussie named Nick Wood
- Only three of the surfers have won the event three times in a row
- None of the surfers have won the event four times in a row to this day
Bells Beach Wave
Bells Beach is well-known because its ocean floor provides the perfect contour to bind the massive Southern Ocean turning into fun long rides with the wave. When conditions are right, the Bells wave can start at Rincon and break outside Bells into Bowl.
Even though the waves look amazing from shore, it is a wave that requires skill, practice, and power to ensure your turns link up. The waves at Bells are walls that don’t barrel like others, meaning that surfers must show off their rail-surfing talent to have a good score.
Point Break And The Bells Beach 50-Year Storm
Point Break is a top-rated movie among surfers and one of the best surf action movies ever. This film had everything from surf gang-styled bank robbers hiding behind US president masks to FBI agents.
The movie made $84 million at the box office, and when the late 1990s came around, it became an immediate classic film. Here are fun facts about the movie Point Break:
- The movie’s original script was supposed to be about skateboarding
- The co-producer Rick King came up with the movie idea after he took surfing lessons in Malibu.
- Keanu Reeves was not the first choice when looking for the cast for Johnny Utah. Actors such as Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Val Kilmer, and Matthew Broderick were also considered for the role.
- Point Break had several different titles. First was Johnny Utah, and then riders on the Storm
- Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, and Lori Petty had surfing lessons with Dennis Jarvis in California, Hawaii, Kauai, and Hermosa Beach.
- While filming surfing scenes for Point Break, Patrick Swayze broke four ribs.
Getting To Bells Beach And Directions
To get to Bells Beach in Southern Victoria, you can expect to drive around 10 minutes out of Torquay, located on the long coastline. This beach offers excellent surf and fantastic views. If you live in Melbourne, you’ll drive south along the beautiful Great Ocean Road.
It is a relatively easy drive from Torquay to Bells Beach. Those who visit from the city usually stay in Torquay, which is full of fun activities, street cafes, popular venues, and restaurants. From the center of the town, take Geelong Road (Surf Coast Highway) and head south towards Prince Street.
Take the second exit after entering the roundabout onto Geelong Road (Great Ocean Road). Drive for 2.8 kilometers to Bells Boulevard. Take a left turn on Bells Boulevard and continue straight for 3.6 kilometers, and you should see a Bells Beach Sign. Take a left, and you are there.
You can take a bus to Bells Beach from Torquay if you don’t have a vehicle. A bus leaves every four hours directly from Torquay Holiday Resort (Surf Coast Hwy). The bus arrives at Jarosite Road (Great Ocean Road) and only takes about five minutes.
However, you walk an additional hour from the stop to Bells Beach, so keep that in mind.
Surfing At Bells Beach: The Best Time to Go and What to Expect
Bells Beach is a repeatedly popular surf area. Still, the best waves only happen from March to October, corresponding with autumn and winter weather. The town of Torquay is bustling at this time.
The most optimal time to surf during the year is in July. Australian summers tend to bring in more frequent and smaller waves. You must consider if you want small summer waves with chilly air, sunshine, and temperatures.
This time of year gives off consistent, clean waves that are rideable with light wind since it is winter, and in mid-July, clean surfable waves and found 60% of the time, while 29% tend to be blown out. The rest of the 11% is considered small by surfers, but this may be okay for beginner surfers.
You can expect to see why Bells Beach is so famous and why surfers worldwide dream about going there and surfing the waves of Bells Beach. There are several crucial points about Bells:
- Joe Sweeney, a famous wrestler bulldozed the first trail – Bells was a place in the remote countryside before the car park and the flowing wood staircase. Torquay locals that wanted to paddle out would have to go through the bushy cliffs to get to the sand.
Joe Sweeney wanted to change that, and in the early 1969s, he found a local farmer and paid him 30 pounds to clear a path down to the sand. Joe Sweeney became an Olympic wrestler but remained a local legend at Bells Beach.
He surfed on Christmas day at Bells just a few days before passing in January 2016. Before he passed, he told ABC about his favorite surf sport. He spoke
“If you can get a nice, sunny day, sitting out the back with the sun on your back, talking to your mates, it’s the closest I ever get to going to church.”
- Bells – Bells Beach was named after John Cavert Bell, one of the many farmers that worked on the land in the 1840s. The spot has become equal with a more infamous group of Aussies. The organizers start the day with AC/DCs Hell Bells every morning during the contest period.
- Bells Beach is the OG of surfing parks. In 2009, the Save the Waves association earned a wave of support in their efforts to sanction some areas of the world as Would Surfing Reserves. Malibu, Peru, and Haunchaco granted several different surf sports have been given that distinction.
Can Beginners Surf At Bells Beach
If you are a beginner surfer, don’t start with Bells Beach. With powerful waves and harsh conditions, Bells Beach is a surfing spot for advanced surfers. It should only be taken on by surfers with experience.
Instead, stick to town beaches such as Cosy Corner, a great alternative with a safe, sheltered beach and surf patrol on guard. The waves are less violent and not too big, which is perfect for starting out.
Even if you’re just curious about the legend of Bells Beach, it is a place of beauty and magnificent scenery.
If you’re fortunate enough, you may see a surfing legend tame a Bowl wave and ride the crest into infamy.
G’day, my name is Rach Taylor and I’m the proud Founder of Surf Hungry. I am a former Australian Olympic athlete and Australian representative surf sports athlete. I’ve worked in the surf industry and lived at many of Australia’s best surf spots, sparking a life-long love of the ocean and a passion for surf sports which also rubbed off on my two young sons! I am also lucky to spend a lot of ocean-time in my favorite second home, Indonesia. In addition to SurfHungry I have founded several other websites in my areas of passion, namely coffee and rock climbing, and am also a regular rowing content contributor.