Middle-aged man with dreams of witnessing the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach live saves money, makes pilgrimage to Torquay, turns away devastated after realizing there is a hefty entrance fee!


The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is currently underway and now that the Billabong Pipeline Masters has been reduced to the Billabong Pro Pipeline I do believe the argument could be made that it is the most historically significant surf contest on the planet.

It has been run, continuously save Covid ravaged 2020, off Torquay’s rugged shore since 1961, always over Easter week. Australian rock n’ roll anthem Hell’s Bells is played every morning before the first day of competition. The trophy, designed by local Joe Sweeney, is iconic.

Morris Cole.

It is also the only event on the World Surf League Championship Tour schedule that demands an entrance fee.

A middle-aged man who longed dreamed of witnessing the spectacle saved all his money for years and years, cutting his children’s bread rations by 1/3 and taking extra night shifts. He toiled and sweated and eventually had just enough to travel to Melbourne, bus to Torquay and make pilgrimage except when he arrived at the top of those iconic steps was met with a ticket booth charging exorbitant fees for the pleasure.

Money changers in the temple.

Dejected he turned away after direct messaging me, “A bit of Bells fodder. $10 entry fee to watch. Obviously I said fuck that and went home.”

I, too, was once slapped by that bit of dirty pool. The world’s favorite surfer Mick Fanning and I had recently become entangled in an imbroglio and, thus, my invite to Bells was discontinued. I thought, “I’ll show you and come anyway…” so there I went, to Torquay, and there I saw the fee and there I obviously said “fuck that” and went back to the public house.


But, more to the point, how much would you pay to witness professional surfing live and in person?



(Australian of course).

More as the story develops.

San Diego surfer leaves water after shark scare only to get ambushed on land by evil rattlesnake: “It felt like someone dropped a knife on my foot…”

"Is this going to be how it's going to end? After surfing and getting bitten by a rattlesnake?"

As fate would have it, I was in California’s desert interior over the weekend, far away from civilization and cell phone coverage, surrounded by various cacti, reddish boulders, cowboy death. My very best friends, the same with whom I traveled to Yemen post 9/11, Syria, played war correspondent in Lebanon etc., decided at the dawn of Covid that it would be better if we just educated our collected children together. It’s a wild experiment, now rounding year two’s bend, and part of the curriculum includes adventure like sailing to Mexico in the middle of a storm, riding the rails from Paris to Moscow, pitching trucks off cliffs, letting them free to explore this world on their own.

The only worry I usually have, at least in California, is that mean ol’ rattlesnake.

It turns out my fears are justified for a San Diego surfer, Matt Gmyr, just became bitten by one after cutting a surf session short at South Torrey Pines, because a shark was circling.

“I like to just step up onto this little section of dirt next to the curb and just check out the surf one last time and watch my buddies catch some waves,” he told San Diego’s CBS affiliate. “I felt like someone dropped a knife on my foot, like it was sharp pain and I look down and there’s a snake attached to my foot.”

The snake happened to be a diamond back and he knew he needed care, quickly, so called the paramedics. By the time they arrived, though, he was already feeling the poison.

“I was feeling the full body tingling, the lips, the face, the numbness, swelling, and it was crazy,” he said. “There’s a point when I was calling out to God saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to die like this. Is this going to be how it’s going to end? After surfing and getting bitten by a rattlesnake?’”

He was rushed to Scripps in La Jolla where doctors discovered five bite marks on his foot and consider him lucky to be alive. He’s still in the hospital though hopes to be released Friday.

Rattlesnakes. Ugh. But what would Mick Fanning have done? Something to ponder.

Comment live, Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach! “We’re going to see some long rides! The wave height is really, really nice!”

Drop everything! Pro surfing is back!

Keramas during a WSL event there a few years back. | Photo: WSL

Fears of “worst crowds ever” at once secret surf spot following listing in “world’s best black sand beaches”!

"Especially popular among surfers…"

With locals already pining away for the pandemic days of yore when Keramas was empty and local kids could become really good surfers in under two years, the prestigious Travel + Leisure Magazine just had to go and list it as one of the world’s finest black sand beaches for tourism.

Now that the borders are open the last line-up count on a good day at Keramas came in at fifty-five. And, this is a one-man, or one-gal, wave.

Still, you can fantasize that you are Rizal Tandjung, who is still out-surfing the 18 year olds at age 47. He is our Indonesian Kelly Slater. Such is his level of local respect that he gets the pick of the litter on any set that he damn well pleases.

Dream on.

Due to the combo of local crowds and new visitors these days, the common salute to any overseas visitor headed over to surf Keramas is “Good luck, mate”.

Along with such secret spots such as as Iceland’s Jökulsárlón Beach, Italy’s Spiaggia di Ficogrande beneath Stromboli and Japan’s Miho no Matsubara in Shizuoka, Travel + Leisure has described Keramas Beach as “stunning” and “especially popular among surfers, so it’s a great place to hit the waves or at least watch as the surfers ride in over the black sand.”

Oh Christ.

Anyone who has bounced off the reef at Keramas can sneer at the wisdom of that.

But isn’t it comforting that squares will never understand the sport of kings?

The magazine feature also fails to mention that the word Keramas translates to “Washing Hair”. The rivermouth that has honed the reef to perfection having once been the perfect place for Balinese women to bathe.

The Travel + Leisure feature also notes that Keramas Beach is “perhaps the only surfing beach in Bali offering nighttime illuminated surfing”.


It’s the only one. Thank the Gods.

And other than the deadly virus of wavepools sweeping the globe, any surfer in the world would be hard pressed to name any others.

Yet, it is true.

You can actually pay the Komune resort to flip the switch on their stadium lights and surf by an “illumination” that expat John Anderson describes as “about as good as surfing by the lights of a Ute parked on Seven Mile Beach”.

Also, surfing at night is strictly forbidden by the deeper Balinese culture.

The ocean at night here is the realm of child stealing spirits and must be respected.

No joke.

And so it goes. Open borders and prestigious awards.

After all, Bali loves the smell of tourists in the morning…it smells like…victory.

Four thousand clicks from Bells. Unhappy cropping angers fans.

Surf fans in wild pile-on following WSL and surf forecast partner Surfline’s embarrassing social media blunder on eve of Australian leg of world tour, “Bells is now in WA?”

“Has Bells gone mobile? Like REALLY mobile? 

The World Surf League has been forced onto the back foot again following an embarrassing blunder on their various surf media channels. 

In a post to the billionaire-owned organisation’s 3.4 million Instagram followers, a map of Western Australia is presented with the line,

“With less than 24 hours until the first call, let’s take a look at the official @surfline forecast for the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach…” etc. 

Surf fans, predictably, went wild. 

“Bells is now in WA?”

“Where is Bells?”

“At least they had the right country. Maybe next time try to get the right coastline.” 

“Has Bells gone mobile? Like REALLY mobile? 

“I hope the judges haven’t flown to WA.” 

The effort was, likely, the work of an inexperienced intern or a non-surfer, Surfline’s graphic cropped to fit the IG square.

The post has since been amended to include Bells Beach.


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A post shared by World Surf League (@wsl)

Meanwhile, the event looks like it’ll run in unpretty three-foot, maybe four-foot, junk.