The Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach has a reputation as a big wave place. Oddly enough, Bells has only experienced REALLY big waves on a few occasions (1967 and 1981 come to mind) so each year people head down to Bells in anticipation of huge waves for the Rip Curl Pro… and this year for the first time in decades the ocean did not disappoint.
The first week of the contest was a non-event with small waves and lotsa lay days. By Easter Monday, word was starting to float around town that a BIG swell was heading our way. The media got all excited and started to call it the ‘50 Year Swell’, a reference to the big swell in the final scene of Point Break where Agent Utah tracks down big wave bad guy Bohdi to ‘Bells Beach’ on the day of the mythical ‘50 year swell’. Agent Utah lets Bodhi paddle out into the massive waves (filmed on the north-west coast of America… not Bells) and you know the rest.
Anzac Day dawned and the swell was small but on the rise. Experienced locals had been talking talk up the swell and a number of pro surfers had flown in bigger boards from Queensland and the USA.. just in case (we have all been down this road before, promises of huge swells that never arrived).
Thursday night the rumbles around town suggested that a big swell had indeed hit the coast. By morning it was messy but huge so the contest kicked off. By mid-afternoon solid 10-15 foot uneven waves were thundering into Bells Beach. It was big, cold and ugly.. The contest was now on in earnest and not for the faint-hearted.
Without giving a blow by blow description, there were a number of standouts. Firstly the surf was big and ugly, like a washing machine with 30 foot faces. Hawaiian surfer John John Florence revelled in the big waves during his Quarter Final as did Gabriel Medina and big Jordy Smith. Last years Bells winner Italo Ferreira was washed onto the Winki button and smashed around while the jet skis tried to get to him. He collapsed climbing the Bells steps after his Quarter Final win but was through to the next round.
Broken boards, surfers snapping leg ropes. The second last day of competition had it all plus dramatic surfing and hideous closeouts in the bells Beach shorebreak. It was one of the most spectacular days of surfing at bells Beach in decades.
The next day saw the Men’s and Women’s Finals run again in solid (but cleaner) 8-10 foot waves. There were dozens of stories on the day but two dynamic surfers from Hawaii and the USA, John John Florence and Courtney Conlogue surfed with guts and power to win their right to ring the Bell.
What a day, what a contest. Bells had thrown up the most challenging waves in decades. Its reputation was enhanced for another generation of surfers around the world.