Bells Beach Surfing Reserve

21 Apr 2011 0 Share

The iconic Bells Beach has a history worth protecting.

The iconic Bells Beach has a history worth protecting.

Environmental News
April 22, 2011
Words by Bridget Reedman

A magnet for southerly swells, Bells fires on all cylinders for these lucky punters in the first Spring swell of 2010.

A magnet for southerly swells, Bells fires on all cylinders for these lucky punters in the first Spring swell of 2010.

Bells Beach has crafted a reputation through surf culture and folklore as the spiritual home of surfing in Australia, and an internationally renowned surfing icon. As well as hosting the longest running annual international surfing contest, Bells Beach's surfing history is commemorated in its status as a Surfing Recreation Reserve.

Located about five kilometres southwest of Torquay, Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve, comprises a high concentration of quality surfing spots. Swells from the southern ocean slow and steepen over the shallow reefs to form consistent waves. Steep cliffs surrounding the beach provide a natural amphitheatre. The physical development of Bells Beach remains low key with high value placed on protection and regeneration of the natural landscape.

Bells Beach is the playground for the longest running surf contest in Australia, celebrating its 50th year this Easter. Roots of surfing in Torquay-Surf Coast area of Victoria date back to 1920. In January 1961 the first surfing event was held, and in 1962 the first annual Easter contest took advantage of the consistent autumn conditions and full moon high tides. In 1970 Bells was the first Australian venue for the World Surfing Titles. "Bells boomers" have attracted surfers from all over the world since 1965, and later introduced to the world's non-surfing audience as the culminating scene in cult-film Point Break.

Bells Reserve, established in 1973, was the first surf break to be protected for its significance in surfing history and culture, and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve's climate was critical to the development of surfboard and wetsuit technology. The Surf Coast conditions led to important developments in the surfing industry, which now makes the nearby town of Torquay home to the multi-million dollar surf manufacturing industry, and the site of the headquarters of major surfing companies.

The Bells Beach Surfing Reserve set the model for the more recent National Surfing Reserve movement, which recognises iconic surf spots of intrinsic value to Australia. National Surfing Reserve status recognises surfing as a sport that is part of the social and economic fabric of many coastal communities.

Honouring the unique landscape and environmental and surfing heritage, the Reserve status ensures the area remains in its most natural state: wild and woolly. As well as identifying an appreciation of the place, the status of the reserve requires the local Surf Coast Shire Council maintain the area, provide public amenities and achieve management plan objectives.

Bells Beach is unlike anywhere else in the World, it is a unique part of the Australian coastline and has a special place in surfing culture. The Surf Coast community acknowledges the importance of Bells Beach and seeks to protect and enhance the reserve's Natural assets and those of the surrounding hinterland. -    Surf Coast Shire's vision statement.

Legal recognition of a National Surfing Reserves provides the basis for community involvement in its management through trust boards and management plans under the Crown Lands Act 1989. However it is the local community activist groups involved with the stewardship of Bells Beach who hold the Surf Coast Shire accountable. Currently the Bells Beach Preservation Society is lobbying the Surf Coast Shire to honour the reserve and surfers, rejecting plans for infrastructure development to increase tourism.

The National Surfing Reserve movement seeks to gain recognition for other beaches that bear a similar significance, awarding protection in light of the historical worth. Though the value of a National Surfing Reserve is largely symbolic, it empowers local communities and surfers to be custodians of the waves we enjoy and is a powerful seed for future action.

More Environmental News…


Is the National Surfing Reserve title a token gesture, putting iconic beaches on a pedestal or is it a valuable preservation status?

Tags: coastal , protection , VIC (create Alert from these tags)

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