Each Easter, the World Surf League heads to the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia, for arguably the most iconic competition in surfing; the Ripcurl Pro at Bells Beach. Some of the best surfers in the world vie for the prestigious ‘Bell’ trophy, showcasing their skills on the long, rumbling right-hander in front of the dramatic natural amphitheatre which oversees the beach.
The event at Bells Beach has been held annually at 1961, and clearly there’s a reason for it. The wave was further embedded into surfing culture in the 1991 film Point Break, in which Bodhi, surfer-cum-thief-cum-mass murderer, continually references it before ultimately taking his own life in its powerful surf.
Maybe Point Break wasn’t the best film, but Bodhi wouldn’t have spent his life dreaming about the break if it wasn’t a pretty good wave. Bells itself is separated into a multitude of different sections, but in general, if there’s any sort of decent swell, they’ll all link up and give you a long ride with plenty of wall to work with. Bells is your typical swell magnet – if it’s 1-2 foot at the surrounding beaches, there’s every chance you’ll get some 4 foot sets here. Despite that, however, many don’t even regard it as the best wave in the region.
Just a couple of hundred meters to the northeast, well within view of the Bells lineup, is Winkipop. Like Bells, Winki is a long right-hander, but while Bells rumbles along dribbling whitewater along the relatively benign face, Winki is more likely to be heaving water forwards, producing vertical drops and dreamy barrels when it’s on. Winki has effectively three takeoff zones, and when it’s pumping you can expect some serious numbers at each of them. On a good day, the quantity of surfers here is enormous and the quality equally high, while on a bad one there are still inevitably a handful of people out there trying their luck.
Winkipop and Bells are both just a five minute drive from the town of Torquay, birthplace of Ripcurl, and while they are the most recognizable – and the best – waves in the region, they are far from the only ones worthy of a visit. Head less than a mile to the northeast of them, and you’ll find a break called Steps – albeit after a not insignificant walk down, as the name suggests, a lot of steps. You’d imagine that this would deter plenty of people from bothering with this spot, particularly since you can’t really check the conditions without wandering all the way down to the bottom, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Steps and Boobs
The wave itself – another right, of course – is a strange one, but when it’s on it can get seriously good. The take-off is reasonably rapid, before, unless the swell is particularly big, you find yourself in a section so fat that it seems almost impossible to pump your way through. After a few meters though, the wave suddenly stands up again and sends what feels like a rocket through the back of your board. On the right wave you can comfortably make it through this section; other times you’ll cop a close out directly onto your face for a relatively ungraceful end to the wave.
Immediately next to Steps is a wave called Boobs, another right-hander which is similar, albeit a little more high performance, than Steps. On smaller days Boobs tends to be a little bit of a better ride, and the crowds reflect that.
If you’re more in the beginner stages of your surfing life, these waves may not sound ideal for you. Fortunately, a matter of hundred meters or so from Steps begins Jan Juc, a long, sandy beach full of waves suitable for surfers of all skill levels. Groms love it here, with the often slower waves ideal for their 30 kilogram frames. Jan Juc at high tide turns into a permanent shore break, while at low tide it dumps for seemingly hundreds of meters at once, but it can turn on in the middle and provide some good rides. As you may have noticed, this region is a haven for right-handers, and Jan Juc is one of the few spots where there are lefts on offer, to the delight of goofy footers.
While you’re sitting in the water at Jan Juc, you’ll have views of Steps and Boobs, and in between them you might notice another wave; Bird Rock. Bird Rock is, unsurprisingly, a rock, located right at the south-east end of Jan Juc beach. Often, there won’t be much of a wave here, but when there’s a bit of swell it can turn into something spectacular.
The wave which breaks on Bird Rock isn’t a long one, but it doesn’t need to be. This wave can churn out seemingly perfect right-hand barrels when it’s on, and from the water at Jan Juc you’ll have a direct view inside of it. Waves either side often look better when you’re sitting in the water, so from this vantage point, Bird Rock has an air of perfection about it. You’ll see guys make the steep take-off, pull into a perfect barrel, and be spat back out before you can blink. After seeing that, it’s hard not to paddle over.