Bells Beach Waves were first ridden by board riders in 1957. Those board riders were all members of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club and included several big name board riders .including Peter Troy Terry wall, Joe Sweeney, Vic Tantau, Neil Inglis and Owen Yateman who rode a surf ski.
Access to the beach was along a dirt track along the cliff tops which used to be used by the Cobb and Co coaches. Because this track was really rough and hard on the cars, this kept surfers travelling to Bells beach to a minimum number of the members of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club.
In 1960 Joe Sweeney obtained permission from the Shire of Barrabool to upgrade the Old Cobb and Co road and extend it further into the Bells Beach area. Joe hired a local contractor who used his grader to widen and consolidate the track. The work cost thirty two pounds. Joe then went to his surfing mates and asked them for one pound each to use the new track, which they enthusiastically agreed to. It must be said that the new track was still a rough ride and very bumpy. No one ever took a new car over it at that time.
Vic Tantau and Peter Troy organised the first board rally held at Bells Beach during Easter of 1961. It was known as the Bells Beach Easter Rally.
By 1974 the rally was then inducted onto the World Surfing circuit and it became known as “The Bells Beach Rip Curl Pro”.
Bells Beach is now the longest running contest in the world, held traditionally at Easter each year.
It is also the only Heritage listed Surfing “National Park” in the world. First prize for the male winner is now $100,000.00 and first prize for the female winner is $50,000.00.
Joe Sweeney designed and built the famous Bells Beach Trophy, which is rung every year by the winners of the male and female events. The winners received a smaller replica of the Bell to keep.
Joe Sweeney made the trophies from 1974 up until 2016, when he passed away.
Bells Beach was named over 100 years ago after the “Bell family” who owned thousands of acres of land close to the cliff tops between Anglesea and Torquay.
The first Surf shop was set up in Torquay in 1968 by Terry Wall, Brian singer and Doug Warbrick at Kevin “Mumbles” Walker garage in Bell Street near the Torquay Hotel.
A copy of their advertisement is on our web site. In the first year they made no money at all as a matter of fact they ran at a loss. Terry Wall decided to pursue his chemical engineering career, and is now a Professor of Chemical Engineering at Newcastle University and one of the most renowned experts in the world in converting coal into liquid coal making coal a far cleaner product than years ago.
Doug Warbick and Brian Singer decided to continue on in the Surfing industry and in 1969 they established “Rip Curl”. They are still today foundation owners of “Rip Curl” and export their products to 60 countries around the world. In fact the surfing industry in Torquay produces 29% of all income from every industry in the Surf Coast Shire.**
Torquay is now a real surfing town, known as “The surfing capital of Australia”.
The three friends, Terry Wall, Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer, all now in the 70’s have remained great friends and still surf daily.
They are all still members of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club.
Researched and written by David Marshall, acknowledging his main tool to be the “History Of Torquay Surf Life Saving Club”, by Ken Pollard, his own 55 years plus membership of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club and knowledge of surfing in Torquay, and ** Surf Coast Shire Analysis and statistics.
History of Torquay Surf Life Saving Club “The first Fifty Years”, Ken Pollard, Author of History of Torquay Surf Life Saving Club joined the Club in 1952, gained his surf bronze in April 1953 carrying out patrols for ten years, six years as a patrol captain, competed as a board paddler winning two state titles, serving on various committee and delegate to State Council, editor of Club magazine and Club Historian until recently.