Former CEO, Surfrider Foundation
Bells Beach in brighter days. Photo: ASP/Kirstin

Bells Beach in brighter days. Photo: ASP/Kirstin

The Inertia

Jim: Maurice, I heard there were some new challenges at Bells Beach… What’s going on?

Maurice: Our local Council has just finished building a mini-bus and coach Hub At Bells for 550 tourists, and what was once a capacity of 200 people is now 700! Our council has reduced our car parks by 30%, wants to issue commercial tour operators with licenses and has started fining surfers for where they have parked for 40 years or more, and there is more development for Bells planned with a tourist Hub planned for the Winki car park!

J: So there has been a change… was there a change in the policy status around Bells?

M: The status of Bells was changed back to a normal recreation reserve at the end of the ’70s and early ’80s, and most of the protections went with it.

The original legislation was not very strong so that in fact Bells is not a “surfing” reserve anymore. We found this out about 6 months ago and we were all quite shocked!

J: So what’s weird about that threat is that Bells is supposed to be “safe” right? It’s already a “protected reserve” so how could it be in danger? We thought of it as something like a State Park or something, kind of like the protection around places like Trestles… which we’ve also come to find out isn’t protected any more than the locals will keep it protected and natural.

M: The whole Bells reserve is amazing. Pristine beaches, incredible marine life and habitats, the flora and fauna has been re-established by our local Surfers Appreciating a Natural Environment – SANE. Truly, it’s still one of surfing’s natural wonders of the world!

J: That’s what I’ve heard. Okay, I get it. This is one of those instances when an unspoiled area is pressured by development creeping in. So, what can we do to assist?

M: We need to mobilize by way of collecting signatures on our petition and showing our politicians that surfers and their surfing culture are important and that Bells is the birth place of Australia’s contemporary surfing culture. It’s our sacred place, and will need our global surfing brothers and sisters to sign.

J: Got it, any last thoughts? I mean you were in Europe during the formation of Surfrider Europe and now you are in Australia and working with Surfrider to protect Bells. Any lessons you’ve learned over those years?

M: Tom Curren and I were driving back together from Lacanau and got to talking about how we could give something back to France.  We lived in a surfing paradise in those days with perfect uncrowded French barrels but every time there was a storm, rubbish would pile up on the beaches. It was just accepted as normal…

We decided to try and educate the Spanish and French to accept the ocean was not a garbage dump…and with Planet Menakoz raising funds to start Surfrider Europe.

It was all about being part of the solution, and if you weren’t a part of the solution, then you were the problem…It’s all about giving back, and the same principles apply here at Bells as everywhere!

Click here to sign the petition and find more info at

  • Realist

    “This is one of those instances when an unspoiled area is pressured by development creeping in.”

    Ummm…no it ain’t. If by unspoilt you mean european-style grassy farmland with fences, houses on the hill, substantial roads, parking, toilet block, access stairs, well then, yes, maybe. And Bells is just off the main highway from what is the start of Australia’s most famous tourist drive – The Great Ocean Road.

    This is not some verdant, untouched National Park – it’s just a rugged beach at the end of a paddock (field). For those that have never been there, it’s more like Trestles – if you could actually drive off the Interstate and park your car overlooking the beach.

    While it does sound like the local council is being heavy-handed in handing out parking tickets, what Maurice really wants is to keep Bells for surfers only, not allowing tourists to stop and take photos of the amazing view. Why shouldn’t visitors be able to enjoy Australia’s natural wonders?
    Yes, buses look ugly, but if the carpark is set up safely (re:
    pedestrians and traffic), with enough spots for surfers, and easy access for surfers in their cars to check the surf on cold winters morns,  what’s the big
    If his argument is that tourist buses add nothing to the local town, that the buses use Bells as the first toilet stop on the Great Ocean Road and the tourists leave rubbish everywhere, then wouldn’t improving the facilities be a benefit? Better (more) toilets, more rubbish bins … and a licence fee paid by the commercial operators to pay for the upkeep and general other beach and facilities of Torquay/Jan Juc/Bells? And from looking at the plans, there’ll be informative signs, seats and landscaping.

    Does he like it when the Rip Curl Pro is in town and there’s temporary building structures taking up all the car parks? Or is it just Asian tourists with cameras that he has an issue with?

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