All roads led to Torquay this week as the world professional surfing tour heads to Bells Beach for the running of the prestigious Rip Curl Pro.
The first Bells Beach Surfing Contest was held in January 1962. A few hundred people gathered on the beach to watch local and interstate surfers compete in tiny summer waves. The next year the event was moved to the Easter date and after a number of years of massive waves it quickly became one of the best known surfing contests on the planet. 1981 was another massive year with 15 foot plus waves surfing into Bells Beach making surfing history.
Today the Rip Curl Pro is a different beast with grandstands on the cliff, jet skis running surfers out to the waves, drones flying overhead and millions of people watching the event on TV and over the internet. For two weeks of the year the quiet of the natural environment at Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve gets turned into a mini stadium with thousands of people cheering on the world’s best male and female surfers.
Competition this year is tight in both divisions. Newly crowned World Champion John John Florence is yet to win at Bells Beach. He will be keen to put on a good show in the big waves at Bells and add to his bloated trophy cabinet. Hot on the heels of John John will the usual Brazilian contingent led by Gabriel Medina and the Aussies with Matt Wilkinson, three times World Champ Mick Fanning and recent Quiksilver Pro winner Owen Wright sure to make life difficult for John John at Bells. Finally there is the great man Kelly Slater… 45 years old and still capable of winning any surfing contest on his day.
The Women’s Competition is always tight each year. Six times World Surfing Champion Stephanie Gilmore has started the year in style winning the Quiksilver Pro recently on the Gold Coast. She will have current World Champ Tyler Wright, former World champ Carissa Moore and Sally Fitzgibbons nipping at her heels. The four natural footers all surf well at Bells Beach and will be keen to win another of the historic Bells to add to the trophy cabinet (with Sally keen to check out her favourite footy team the Geelong Cats while she is in town).
The competition window for the 2017 Rip Curl Pro opens on April 12 and runs through until April 24. Keep your eyes and ears glued to the internet so you can catch details of when the contest is running. Easter is always a fantastic time to be on the coast with lots of people, parties and good surf.
This year’s event is being held a bit later in the year than normal, which guarantees the chance of big surf and some really cold days on the beach. So drag that beanie and coat out of the closet…. you might need them during the Easter weekend.
Written by John Foss.