Surfing Action

Bells Beach

“In 1956 when Torquay Surf Club hosted the Melbourne Olympics demonstration sport, a surf carnival at Torquay Surf Beach, surf board riding as we knew it then changed forever. The U.S. lifeguard team arrived with shorter fibre-glassed balsa surf boards. Within a year surfing in Victoria, NSW and Queensland had abandoned the 16’0” hollow plywood ‘toothpick’ designs and adopted the 9’0” balsa Malibus brought by the Americans. The culture of Californian surfing exploded at Australian beaches over the next few years.
The leading Australian surfboard builders quickly switched to balsa and fibre glass. The boards, although by todays' standards heavy and clumsy, were a major design break-through. They allowed surfers to commence exploring new beaches, not previously surfed because of equipment limitations.
Torquay Surf Club's Vic Tantau had competed at the ground-breaking carnival and quickly commenced making balsa boards in Melbourne. They were based on the American templates. For Torquay board riders it meant they could venture to a little known beach a few kilometers west of Torquay. It had been occasionally visited by curious Torquay surf boat crews, surf ski riders and toothpick surfers prior to 1956.
The Bells Beach, named after the Bell family who owned the farm adjacent to the beach was known, but not really surfed. It was about to become an Australian icon, a high profile surf break, the amphitheatre for the design journey all the way to today's high performance surfboards. This gallery captures that period, 1963 - 1970.”

Barrie Sutherland

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