The Crowds Will Be Coming, So How Will Bells and Winki Cope? – Nick Carroll

27 Mar 2018 16 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

A bit of Surf Coast Shire sharing, will the pending developments mean more of this? Photo: From the CW Member Gallery by anf355

A bit of Surf Coast Shire sharing, will the pending developments mean more of this? Photo: From the CW Member Gallery by anf355

THE ISSUE IN THE BACKGROUND AT BELLS

Surf Coast development is about to go fricken nuts. How will the surf communities cope?

A heap of eyes will be on Bells Beach in the next two weeks and for great reasons.

It’s Mick Fanning’s retirement event, and if there’s a more beloved and respected surfer in the country, I’d be just a bit astonished.

This may not be the best-forecasted Bells ever, but it’s not gonna be freezing cold every day either.

Those two things alone will probably break on-site attendance records. (In the past I think it’s managed seven thousand car-loads in one day, not counting all the sneak-ins.)

But that’s a temporary crowd—in for Easter, out again next week, back at work or school, flushed with Coronas and memories.

The crowd worrying some local people in the Surf Coast’s sister towns of Torquay and Anglesea is the one brewing in the near future. And it’ll dwarf any pro contest.

When modern surfing got its real kick start with the 1970 World Contest at Bells, Torquay was a modest little place with less than 2,000 residents. Today, Torquay/Jan Juc has over 17,000—roughly a 30% increase in the past eight years.

There’s plenty more on the way. In the proposed Spring Creek development zone, running along the valley from Torquay down behind Jan Juc and Bellbrae, the Surf Coast Shire has okayed 2650 housing lots. Council staff had recommended 1800.

Just north of Anglesea, on the site of Alcoa’s former mining lease, groundwork is being laid for development by both the Surf Coast Shire and Alcoa, who owns a couple of chunks of the ex-mining land. Recently Alcoa called for public comment on a very broad outline of its plans for the area. The plans (on which comment is now closed) focus hard on tourism and natural amenity, but include a couple of throwaway lines on the need for “freehold” land—code for residential development. The Shire’s coastal population is expected to increase by another 15,000 by 2036.

Just up the road, in what’s called the Geelong-Torquay “development corridor”, plans are in train to house another 65,000 people in the next 20 years. (“Train” being an operative term—a Torquay/Melbourne rail link is being considered.)

Coastal population growth has been a given in Australia for many years, and new waves of it are rolling in all over the place. Byron residents are trying to call a development in West Byron to account right now, for example. The development includes around 1000 housing lots and looks like a typical modern proto-suburb: small blocks built out to the edges.

But the growth coming to Bells is different. It’s Melbourne-driven. New residents will be city commuters, with well-paid jobs and growing families hungry for experiences along that fabled coast.

It’ll have a huge impact on the surf communities in the area.

“It definitely is talked about,” says highly skilled local surfer Cahill Bell Warren. “The lineups are at capacity now. We sit out there and say, ‘If it’s crowded now, what’s it gonna be like in 10 years?’”

Like others CW has talked with in the area, Cahill knows there’s no way of stopping the flood, and he’s not sure it’d be fair to try: “I can’t blame anyone for wanting to be here, bringing their kids up surfing, it’s the best.” But they fear what they’ve seen elsewhere—the anarchy of Snapper, for instance.

Surf Coast surf zones are not violent places, and many spots are user-friendly under six feet—roll-in takeoffs, obvious entry and exit points, broad lineups with plenty of space. A few have Tribal-Law style rules of the lineup signs here and there, though Cahill thinks they don’t have much effect.

Over six feet, the surf tends to regulate. “There’s a dramatic thinning of the lineup. Harder to access, and sweeps begin happening,” he says. “It goes back to the good old days, and all the boys get their waves. I hope we never lose that.”

Other than relying on Mother Nature’s regulatory skills, Cahill believes the local surf communities will have to make a conscious effort to prepare for what’s coming. He points out the best surfers tend to run lineups. “To me the number one thing is to build strength in the communities now, and educate the kids in the way lineups should work. The kids all have to understand that stuff because if they don’t, we don’t have a hope.”

He’s heartened by the friendly rivalry between the two boardriders’ clubs in the area, Torquay and Jan Juc. “It’s a bit like us two against the world… we’re more passionate about who we are and that’s increasing the pride we have in the area. We actively talk about the history and about what we can do to educate the next generation.

“It’s incumbent on guys like me, as a surfer and a coach, to do that work. ‘Cause if I don’t, in 30 years when I’m 60 and the lineups are chaos, I won’t get any waves!”

He starts laughing a bit. “Plus, I don’t want to turn into one of the grumpies! I know things will change, but…. I wanna be happy when I’m older.”

Video: Toledo, Colapinto and More Tear Apart Bells


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