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.
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.