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Tag Archives: Torquay

Monster day at Bells, Easter 1965

Rod Brooks describes the monster day at Bells with waves at “fractionally over 20 ft.” In April 1974 Ted Bainbridge interviewed Brooks for a Breakway magazine special on the Bells Easter contest.
At the time Brooks was managing Klemm-Bell Surf Shop in Torquay. A year later Brooks and Fred Pyke would launch Piping Hot wetsuits, another business from the small Victorian seaside town to become a global player in the surf industry.
Bainbridge asked about the famous Bells waves and Brooks recalled 28 straight days of “over 6ft. and perfect”.
He said the most memorable Bells contest was in 1965, “the biggest and probably the most exceptional time at Bells.
“There have been days that big but there hasn’t been the number of people there to take advantage of it. On that particular occasion, top surfers from all over Australia were there and it was probably as big as it ever gets.
“I’d say fractionally bigger than 20 ft., but certainly 20. This was only on one particular morning then eventually it closed out on the low tide. The wind went around from N.W. in the morning, banking west all day and also the waves tended to wall across to WinkyPop.
“Robert Kenneally won and Nat Young came second. Jeff Watt, from Torquay, was third.”


Claw remembers the rough track to a legendary break

Rip Curl co-founder Doug ‘Claw’ Warbrick describes the first time he saw and surfed Bells Beach (from a Breakway interview, March, 1974)

“Bell’s had this really rough track to it. What happened was the government and surfers made a road through.

They saw Bob Pettit who owned the land there and asked him if they could make a road. The surfers all chipped in about five pounds each and hired a bulldozer and made the road through. That’s the old road that goes from Torquay past Boobs Bay. The worst bit used to be from Boobs there, where we swung around the corner – where the new road is, from there to Winkipop. That was really bad.

You couId never see Bell’s breaking, like Winkipop was completely different. There were all trees there and stuff. You had to get around the trees before you could see Bell’s breaking.

But getting back to the very first time I saw Bell’s. It was the Christmas of 1960-‘61 and I was down with some of my friends and one guy had an M.G. or something. We all climbed into his M.G. with our boards sticking out – he didn’t have one. We’d all been surfing Torquay for about a week and, feeling pretty confident, we decided to try Bell’s. It’s funny but there always seemed to be good waves then. Torquay aIways seemed five or six foot, offshore and glassy.

Anyway, we made our way around to Bell’s and there it was. Well it wasn’t a particularly big day, it was high tide, and although the waves weren’t very big they were very thick. It was basicalIy breaking off the bowl at high tide. I kept thinking how small the cove was and how big the waves were.

The dominant surfer out there was Marcus Shaw. Of course Marcus was one of the all time greats at Bells and he was a real heavyweight – at least he had the reputation of being a heavyweight. He was champion boxer and star karate man and all that sort of stuff. He used to just terrorise the surf.

Anyway we went out and tried to surf it. I can remember getting crushed a few times – didn’t get past the take-off. I was about 15 or 16 and getting run over by Marcus Shaw. One of my friends just about got in a punch-up with him and it was just sorta too much for us.

And oh, Marcus was surfing it quite well, he was a goofy but he was probably the first guy to do the big sit down backhand turns. Nat really brought that in, in about 1966, but Marcus had been doing it all along – it was just his natural style. He used to do big reverse flickouts and stuff in the shorebreak, even then.”


Oh, no … the $200 board, says Claw

Doug ‘Claw’ Warbrick took to the columns of the surfing press back in 1975 to put the manufacturers’ case for an increase in surfboard prices. His arguments about economics, custom products and artisan producers probably still apply.

Surfboards for $200! “Crazy”, you say, “everybody knows boards have always been $100.” It seems the time has come for surfboards to go up, along with everything else.

The big board builders have had a series of bad years profit-wise and the shapers and workers want to make the same kind of money as any other skilled tradesmen. The world’s most famous shaper, Dick Brewer of Hawaii, has been selling his boards for $US300 and more.

Boards in Australia probably won’t reach that $US300 price for a long time, but they will get to nearly $200 before long.

There will still be cheap boards around. Everyone sells boards for lower than the established price when they first start making boards. Guys will make boards for just their wages with no profit while they are learning the trade.

There are two ways to learn to make boards, one is to start with an established manufacturer and the other is to start making your own.

The guys who start out by themselves usually just want enough bread to surf a lot. This is a great thing for a young surfer to do but, although their boards are cheap in price, they are nowhere near as professional as when these guys become experienced.

Boards have been creeping up in price about $5 or $10 a year for a few years. One reason for this was the increase in sales tax a couple of years ago. Now at 15% sales tax is one of the major components of the price of a board.

Of course, if you are just a beginner manufacturer, you don’t pay sales tax at all; at least I didn’t when I started out in the garage at home.

The biggest single increase in the cost of producing a board facing the established manufacturers is new legislation on workers’ compensation. The cost of workers’ compensation alone will increase the cost of each board by at least $5 for the average size manufacturers.

Most of the manufacturers in the Torquay surfing industry, the place I know best, are open to the public seven days a week and custom make boards and do repairs within one week. These people also sponsor surfing contests.

The traditional $120 or so for a board does not seem realistic anymore. Since the introduction of decimal currency around 10 years ago nearly everything you can think of has increased 100 per cent. In this time surfboards have increased from around $95 to about $120 to $130, an increase of less than 50 per cent.

In those days it took a young surfer at least three weeks pay to buy a new board, recently a young guy with a reasonable job has been able to get a board with a week’s pay. Working on the normal wholesale and retail mark-ups for other businesses, surfboards would be at minimum $225 already.

Surfboards. are a highly refined, high performance piece of equipment. Boards are available from true surfing champions and innovators. People like Wayne Lynch and Terry Fitzgerald who draw upon years of international experience in all kinds of surf to hand-shape boards just the same as they use to win professional contests or ride the classic waves of the world. These boards will cost around $185 this season. Top class boards by people who have also had great success with their designs like Geoff McCoy, Don Allcroft, Pat Morgan and Kym Thompson will probably cost around $175.

This is some attempt to explain the price rises in surfboards on behalf of the shapers, workers, owners and retailers of the surfboard industry by the maker of Victoria’s first cut price surfboard the $89 Rip Curl hot dog model.