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Local landmark Profile: Bells Beach

Perfectly placed at the start of the Great Ocean Road, Bells Beach entices droves of visitors to its shores all year round.

But there’s more to this humble slice of paradise than just surfing. Here’s what makes Bells Beach so special.

What’s in a name?

Well before Bells Beach was common parlance for ‘professional surfing mecca’, the surrounding land was home to the Wathaurong people. It was the ideal meeting ground along the coast, with its plentiful supply of abalone and crayfish making it a consistent food source.

The name itself can be traced right back to the mid-19th century. William Bell, a councillor and mayor from Geelong, bought a package of land in the area in 1864, which was later acquired by D C Lewis. Right before the turn of the century, the land was sold to John Calvert Bell in 1899 – surprisingly, there’s no relation between the two Bells.

But the actual beach as we know it today wasn’t officially ‘discovered’ as a surfing hub until the late 1940s.

Surfing pioneers

Around that time, two Torquay locals – Owen Yateman and Vic Tantau – were known to ride the waves of Bells Beach. Then, in the 1950s, members of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club rode their motorbikes along the cliffs to carve out the first track to Bells Beach.

Over the following decade, the track was upgraded properly and paved the way for this remarkable surfing spot to become an iconic sporting destination.

Rip Curl Pro: The world’s longest-running surfing competition

These days the Easter holidays are synonymous with surfing events at Bells Beach. But in fact the first-ever surfing championship at the site happened in January of 1961. The following year, however, Easter was slated as a better time for the event, and so the Bells Beach Easter Rally became an annual sensation.

The world soon began to take notice of a small but remarkable surfing event happening at the base of the Australian continent. Unlike other popular locations for surfing competitions, Bells Beach provides a natural amphitheatre for onlookers, while the large swells thrusting in from the Southern Ocean create incredible surfing conditions for participants.

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So it was with little surprise that the small-time Bells Beach event became the Rip Curl Pro from 1973 – and is today the longest-running surfing competition in the world.

Hollywood Down Under

For fans of cheesy ’90s action movies, you probably associate Bells Beach with Point Break. While it’s true that the climax of the movie technically takes place at Bells Beach – where a once-in-a-lifetime wave awaits Patrick Swayze’s bleach-blond character Bodhi – filming actually took place in Oregon.

Elsewhere, cult-classic 1966 documentary The Endless Summer takes a trip down to Bells Beach, and the famous beach also gets a mention in the 2007 animated feature film Surf’s Up.

Putting Torquay on the map

Whether it’s to capture a glimpse of an iconic surfing location, or simply to check it off the holiday bucket list, there’s no denying that Bells Beach has had a significant impact on the local economy, particularly for Torquay and Jan Juc.

It’s an ideal starting point for people beginning their Great Ocean Road journey, and travellers can then stop in at one of Torquay’s many cafes and shops. And while the Rip Curl Pro didn’t end up going ahead in 2020 or 2021, locals will be happy that the event is returning in 2022 and for the foreseeable future.

Finding a home in Torquay

Whether you’re a local looking to buy or sell, or you feel drawn to live in this beautiful and community-rich coastal town, contact my team today.