I often wonder what’s so good about Bells Beach and the Rip Curl Easter extravaganza.
I’ve been to Bells at Easter many times, first up in 1971 for the Australian Championships.
Then in 1973 for the first professional Rip Curl contest won by MP. There had been plenty of amateur years prior to that going back I think as far as 1962.
So history, Worlds longest running surfing contest, but it’s more than that.
This year was a good year for surf and I think that is what makes Bells special, the surf and surf stories.
There is so much surf around the Surf Coast.
That is the stretch between 13th Beach and Lorne, covered by car in about 1 hours drive end to end.
But the unique thing about this coast is that if it’s flat there is an option.
You can drive from Torquay 2 hours down the coast to another stretch of coastline that faces directly into the Australian Bite and is open to all the swell produced by the Great Southern Ocean.
So plenty of options and opportunities to surf quality reef lineups or sandbanks with just a few other surfers around.
Thus all the stories.
Bells 2018 was a consistent good surf year with most days being 3 to 5 feet with peak swell periods up to 8 feet.
The winds for the most part were light resulting in clean surfable surf all day pretty much.
Ideal for recreational surfing.
The contest surf was very good, but generally not perfect, with quite often slightly lumpy, broken up swell and inconsistent set waves.
But the girls and guys did a good job ripping it up.
Congratulations Steph and Italo, the best surfers throughout the Rip Curl Bells Easter Pro and special thanks Mick for one last great ride in an epic career.
I had a great time this year, but I was hurting a little with some hip trouble and associated side strain nerve pain. So I was selective of when and how many times to go surfing.
But Bells delivered.
I surfed Lowers at Winkipop virtually sitting on the Lowers take-off spot by myself on Easter Saturday, unheard of.
And then on layday Wednesday the 4th, I drove to Lorne with my staff photographer Sharon for lunch at Lorne. We checked a few spots on the way, but the swell was marginal 3 to 4 or 5 on the sets with a rising tide.
The better known reef near Lorne was OK, but had a half a dozen on it and was only breaking on the sets arriving every 10 minutes. We went to the Pier Restaurant enjoying a nice lunch overlooking the new Lorne Pier and coastline back along the Great Ocean Road.
The swell seemed to strengthen as you would think it would with forecasters tipping bigger surf for the next day Thursday.
We checked a few spots after lunch over the back of Lorne, and I almost joined 3 young blokes having a great surf on a short stretch of reef just off the main road. But a couple of cars pulled up with likely lads suiting up.
The sets continued to increase in size, so I figured the main break reef we checked earlier may be now breaking even though the tide was higher. It’s the old ploy of surfing at the wrong tide, sometimes can pay off.
There must have been a thousand surf stories this day because earlier the wind was strengthening and the tide rising.
By early afternoon the wind had dropped and the swell was steadily increasing.
We arrived back at the main reef to see still inconsistent sets breaking, but now 4 or 5 feet and only 1 guy out.
I was working down there as usual as a boardmaker, and wanted to test a Heritage style 6’3 20 1/2 2 11/16 flyer rounded pintail vee bottom board, so this was a perfect opportunity.
As it turned out, the guy out there was Ryan Conlogue, Courtney’s brother.
Courtney & mum Tracey were on the beach so we caught up before I scrambled out to the lineup. Courtney is recovering from an ankle injury sustained on the Gold Coast.
Ryan and I swapped pretty good waves for an hour before being joined by one other guy for a further hour, before the mid-tide crew showed up.
This session reminded me of many similar situations over the years in & around the Easter contest at Bells, getting out and tracking down surf.