Blogs From The Bowl 5 – Bell Ringers’ Ball

Did Tom Curren really fall over jumping on stage?

Mae and husband Occy.
Last night Rip Curl hosted a ball to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Bells Easter Classic. It was a night of memories and legend. A celebration of 50 years of the Rip Curl Pro and Bells Beach Easter rally ball, a sit down dinner, one-part pomp and ceremony, tow-parts relaxed gathering. Like nomadic pagans returning to an enchanted forest, Bells legends appeared in the clearing [stage] to be recognised and ring the Bell in a ritualistic fashion.

34 past Bells champions.

Despite the presence of Kelly Slater, Mark Occhilupo and Tom Carroll (to name but a few), it was Lorne Points Gail Couper that received the one and only standing ovation of the night. Gail won four Bells trophies in the sixties and then six straight in the early seventies. “How do you win ten?” Kelly Slater said in wonderment, once he was asked to the microphone for comment. Looking for Gail in the crowd he searched for an answer from Gail – who simply shrugged her shoulders cooly. The MC then repeated whatever clichéd question it was he’d originally asked Kelly, only to again get a statement from the champ about how highly he thinks of Gail’s achievements. As Pam Burridge said later in her toast to monumental occasion, “It’s easier to win a world title than a Bell.”

Bethany Hamilton, Alana Blanchard and Laura Enever.

This wasn’t your average seventeen-schooners-down surf industry shindig rather it was quality Shiraz all round as the event commenced with a violin rendition of Hells Bells.

As the crowd were treated to a decade-by-decade cinematic reflection on the world’s longest running surfing contest you could have cut the nostalgic sentiment in the room with a knife.

Gail and Mick.

Mick Fanning proved himself a worthy orator, when he made a speech about some of his more humorous Bells experiences. “I thought I’d seen the devil, when I paddled out against Danny Wills in 2001… he just stared straight through me.” Mick of course went on to win the event as a wildcard. Meanwhile Nat Young was the definitive elder statesman, glossing over his own victories at Bells in ’66, ‘67 and 70, while elaborating on his contemporaries. “After a time you learn that giving back is more important,” suggested a humble-sounding Nat, who was speaking through broken ribs.


The current crop of world tour surfers embraced the event but none more than Adriano De Souza. Clutching a copy of the recently released, ‘History of Bells’ book by Michael Gordon, Adriano spent the night hunting for autographs. The book documents the stories behind past winners and Adriano wanted every one of them to sign his copy. The diminutive Brazilian eventually spent the night talking with one of the other little big men of surfing, Trent Munro.

Some times reminiscing is the best way to appreciate what you have.

Note: Tom Curren did fall over after jumping on stage for the group photo, but typically he recovered with grace. Even a slip us for God is cool.

Photos: Luke Kennedy





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