Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia
With Bells Beach, it’s not just the wave; no other spot in Australia has a deeper sense of surfing history. There is an aura of surfing greatness around Bells. Maybe this comes from the raw power of the Southern Ocean pounding sheer limestone cliffs or maybe it’s because of tales of the early surfers and the wild times that went down at Bells Beach. Whatever draws surfers there, it is the wave that keeps them coming back.
It’s a big, rumbling, point, breaking right over a rock shelf and rocky reef. When the stormy Southern Ocean swells come rolling in, which is often, Bells turns on long powerful waves, with wide open faces. If all three sections are lining up, expect rides over 100m and plenty of room for rail to rail carving.
There are three sections to the wave at Bells; furthest out is Rincon, which picks up the most swell, next in is The Bells Bowl, where the bulk of the pack sits and finally The Shorebreak. Most of the time, Rincon will close down before the Bowl. This spreads the crowd out, as does the nearby breaks of Winki Pop, Centreside and Southside, all within paddling distance of Bells proper.
The best time to catch Bells is from March to October, when the southerly swells are more consistent, the winds offshore and the water cool, to downright cold. A 5mm steamer is recommended for the middle of winter (July and August). At Easter time, when they hold the Annual Bells Beach Easter Classic (now called the Rip Curl Surf and Music Festival) leave the board at home, grab a camera and a few friends.
On any decent south swell you will find waves at Bells. It works on all tides and is offshore in a northerly wind. When Bells is less than 6ft, it is fun and ripable, though still not a beginner wave. When it’s big, Bells is for experienced surfers only and even they pay their dues. Bells Beach is not the only quality wave in the area, the whole coastline is dubbed the Surf Coast and delivers what it promises. The nearby town of Torquay is a good base for surf exploring the area.
(Image by Flickr user surfglassy)