It’s the final scene of Point Break and Johnny Utah and Bodhi aka Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze are standing on Bells Beach. The rain from the 50 year storm has slicked back Swayze’s raging mullet to a point where it almost looks like a reasonable hair style. Pine trees bend in the wild winds on the cliffs above the beach and… Hold on a second. There are no pine trees at Bells Beach.
Bells Beach is Australia’s best known surf beach and surfers have been coming to this spot to ride the waves since 1939. The beach itself is a relatively small stretch of sand surrounded by sandstone cliffs with windswept timber stairs leading down to the shore. It is not a swimming beach due to dangerous rips, heavy surf and rocks hidden beneath the crashing waves. Bells is not the place to brush up on your surfing skills either. Unless you are an experienced surfer Bells is a spot for watching others strut their stuff. But this is where those cliffs come in handy making an excellent viewing platform. Most days you’ll get a good show.
But the best time to watch is definitely at Easter when Bells hosts the world’s longest running surfing competition, the Rip Curl Pro. Held every Easter the competition celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The winner fittingly receives a bell shaped trophy.
Some locals are disturbed by the large amount of visitors the spot receives and are understandably concerned about the environmental impact this is having on the world’s first surfing reserve, declared in 1976. Their concerns centre on the use of the reserve for profit by both tourist buses and for major events and the negative ecological effect this has as well as concerns about beach erosion caused by storm water drainage the local council seems reluctant to repair.
Reactions to Hollywood’s depiction of Bells Beach in Australian cinemas in 1991 varied from astonished giggles to angry booing and popcorn throwing. The beach shown in the movie is actually Indian Beach in Oregon, America.