History of the Rip Curl Pro and Bells Beach Surf Classic Surfing Contest

Surfing has been a popular Australian sport since the 1960s. Besides being such an enjoyable participant sport, one of the ways that the sport has maintained popularity is through major competitions that have brought together the best surfers from around the world. The surfing competition that is a part of every serious surfer’s bucket list is the Rip Curl Pro held at Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia. The Bells Beach Surf Classic has become a staple in the world of pro surfing and offers surfers and spectators alike, a great social and viewing experience.

For you lucky ones who live in NSW, you get to enjoy some of the most picturesque and beautiful warm beaches in the world, but Victoria’s Bell’s Beach is renowned as the Australian home for world class surfing competitions, and of course, the classic ending in the Point Break movie.

Surfer on a wave at Bells Beach

Just Starting Out

Before the world famous sporting competition began being called by its current name, the Rip Curl Pro, it was formerly known as the Bells Beach Surf Classic.

The Bells Beach Surf Classic was first held during Easter Week in 1962. The contest was founded by local surfers Vic Tantau and Peter Troy. The first tournament was a humble one. Equipped with nothing but a fold-away table and a modest trophy, the two founders put the word out that they were holding a surfing competition, they even performed the judging duties themselves. Back then, the competition only consisted of a men’s singles division. Word quickly spread. The Bells Beach contest quickly gained a reputation worldwide for consistently producing 8-foot waves or bigger, with the 1965 contest beginning with knee-jangling18-foot waves.

Going Pro

The Bells Beach Surf Classic got its first sponsor in 1973 from Rip Curl Wetsuits, who put up $2500 in prize winnings for the competition. In 1976 when the world of surfing had created a world tour pro circuit, Bells Beach was a fixture on the league’s debut circuit. Bells Beach is now the longest running surf competition on tour, with an event held there every year at Easter time.

The 1981 contest, featuring 18-foot waves, was the perfect showcase for introduction of a new surfboard design. Simon Anderson rode his tri-fin to victory and changed the course of surfboard designs. This was highlighted in the 1981 documentary titled All Time Bells. The Bell’s Beach surf contest even opened ’92 and ’95 world tours, and has been a staple of the World Surfing League since its inauguration. The 1967 and 1971 events doubled as the National Title for Australia.

Bells’ Surf Divisions

There are now two other divisions in the Bell’s Beach competition, the junior’s division and women’s division. The junior division event had an eight-year run and was hosted from 1963 to 1972 with one event cancelled in 1965 due to dangerous surf conditions. The women’s division was first created in time for the 1964 event. The division had to be cancelled in 1965 and 1973 and the division also went on hiatus in the early 2000’s, eventually making a return in 2007. When the women’s division went pro in 1975, the prize money was a mere $200, as compared to the men’s division winnings which were over a thousand dollars. The 1975 contest was won by Gail Couper, who went on to win the event for 10 years running.

The Coming Event

With the 2017 event just around the corner, surfers will no doubt be eager to ride the huge waves that Bells Beach nearly always has to offer, and enjoy the nostalgia of surfing at such an historic location. Though the name of the competition has changed over the years to Rip Curl Pro, its humble beginnings and stationary position in the World Surfing League’s pro circuit is testament to how special Bells Beach is.

If you haven’t attended this event, you should definitely make plans to experience it, because the big waves of Bells Beach, mixed with the appeal of new and returning surf talent, will no doubt provide for another exciting event. Let us know who your favourite is to win the classic this year!

The next Rip Curl Pro contest will run from April 12-24 2017, exact dates are dependent on surf conditions.