Breaking Down Bells

27 Mar 2012 0 Share

Half a century of huge swells, competitive milestones and immoderate partying since Bells Beach was first surfed in the late ‘40s has seen the right-hand reef on Victoria’s Surf Coast become one of Australia’s signature surf spots. Likewise, the Bell Trophy – awarded to the winner of the Rip Curl Pro held there each Easter – is one of the sport’s most coveted prizes.

Facing southeast, Bells is exposed to powerful, long-period Southern Ocean swell, yet is offshore in the northwesterlies often associated with these weather systems. Combined with a defined reef and deepwater bay, Bells has gained a reputation as one of the country’s big-wave spots. But while have been plenty of big years in the history of the event when the wind or waves aren’t co-operating Victoria’s varied coastline offers plenty of other options for quality surf.

Surfing World’s Sean Doherty takes a look at the possibilities…

Bells Beach

Wave Type: Right reef/point break
Best Swell Direction: S
Best Swell Size: 4-10 ft
Best Wind Direction: N, NW
Best Tide: High for Rincon, low for The Bowl.

Bells really has two significant breaks that we focus on: Rincon and The Bowl. Rincon works best when the tide is really high in smaller swell, around 2 to 4 feet. Out of the two, Rincon is the least preferred option at Bells. But, on a bigger swell from the right direction, you can take off at the Rincon peak and get a few big power carves off before hopefully flying into The Bowl, which is really what has made Bells so famous. The Bowl works from about 3 feet all the way up to 15 and possibly bigger, but the optimum conditions are 4 to 10 feet. When it’s on, there are few waves on the planet that can test your wave-reading and rail surfing like the Bowl, and the best surfers even manage to find pretty elusive Bells barrels.

Winkipop

Wave Type: Right reef/point break
Best Swell Direction: SW
Best Swell Size: 2-10 feet
Best Wind Direction: N, NW
Best Tide: Low to Mid


Winkipop is a definite favourite of most of the World Tour surfers today. It’s a really fast, down-the-line wave that on its best days can resemble South Africa’s infamous Jeffreys Bay. Winki has two defined take-off spots – the top of the point is known as Uppers and towards Torquay is Lowers. Some of the best waves come through at Lowers where it gets really hollow and fast.

Johanna Beach

Wave Type: Sand/rock-bottom beachbreak peaks
Best Swell Direction: SW
Best Swell Size: 4-6 ft
Best Wind Direction: NE
Best Tide: Depends on the banks

Johanna is where we go when we really have our backs up against the wall — like if we’ve got one or two days left in the waiting period and Bells is dead flat. If there is any swell in the Southern Ocean, Johanna will pick it up. If the sand banks are in great shape, you can get some of the best beachbreak waves in the world out there.

13th Beach

Wave Type: Sand/rock-bottom beachbreak peaks
Best Swell Direction: SW
Best Swell Size: 2-5 ft
Best Wind Direction: N, NE
Best Tide: Depends on the banks

Only a 15-minute drive from Torquay, 13th is a good alternative if the swell and wind are wrong at Bells – it can definitely save us driving all the way to Johanna. Breaking over flat rock reef as well as sand, 13th offers up punchy A-frame peaks that in the right conditions bring out the best in high-performance.

Woolamai, Phillip Island

Wave Type: sand & rock bottom beachbreak peaks
Best Swell Direction: SW
Best Swell Size: 2-5 ft
Best Wind Direction: NE
Best Tide: Depends on the banks

Woolamai is about a 4-hour drive from Torquay. Lucky for us, it’s a lot like Johanna, being a Southern Ocean swell magnet, but it still works on a north wind and can even handle a south-east wind. It’s one of those places that has A-frame banks all up and down the beach, and on its day it can be as good as any beachbreak in the world.

Tags: Bells Beach Pro 2012 , sean , doherty , Bells Beach , Winkipop , Johanna Beach , 13th Beach , Woolamai , Phillip Island , Jan Juc (create Alert from these tags)

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