BELLES Exhibition: celebrating 50 years of Belles and boards at Bells Beach

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BELLES Exhibition: celebrating 50 years of Belles and boards at Bells Beach

BELLES is an new exhibition exploring the lives of the female surfers who have graced the waves at Bells Beach. Presented by the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay the exhibition features rare photographs, surfboards and posters which tell the story of Bells female surfers.

Craig Baird is the Curator of the museum. To help pull the exhibition together he contacted some of the world champions who had won the Bells Beach surfing contest.

“A women’s surfing exhibition has been part of our plans for some time. I had spoken to Layne Beachley and Pam Burridge about the surfers actually curating the exhibition. Logistically this wasn’t possible as the surfers were scattered around Australia and were busy with their own lives. The exhibition came together really quickly. In January Matt Taylor suggested it would be great to have an exhibition featuring women competitors from Bells represented both in the museum and at the Rip Curl Pro Civic Reception,” Craig says.

The Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay is the largest surfing museum in the world. Material for the exhibition was sourced from the museum collection and local surf photographers.

“We sourced material from the museum’s collection (images artefacts, surfboards and event posters), some of the surfers represented; local photographers Steve Ryan and Barrie Sutherland, and images of the original Bell’s women from Chris Barr Torquay Historical Centre/Torquay Museum Without Walls. I grew up surfing in the ’70s so my favourite piece from the exhibition is Hawaiian Rell Sunn’s red Local Motion twin fin that she left with Gail while visiting for the Aussie comps in 1979. It recalls a different era where there was a lot of design experimentation and surfing was a bit more relaxed,” he says.

A feature of the exhibition is the story of Gail Couper, a local surfer from Lorne who dominated the Bells contest in the sixties and seventies. Her record of 10 wins at Bells may never be beaten according to Craig; “Gail Couper has an outstanding record of success at Bells Beach winning the women’s event 10 times between 1964 and 1976. It is a remarkable sporting achievement. Can you imagine if  a jockey had won the Melbourne Cup – everyone would know their name. Gail won Bells 10 times and a fact a lot of people are unaware of. It is one of the reasons we wanted to highlight her incredible success at Bells through the exhibition.”

The BELLES exhibition will run until September this year at the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay. Anyone interested in finding out more about the exhibition can phone (03)52614606, email [email protected] or check out the museum Facebook page for updates.

Written by John Foss