ALTHOUGH the Rip Curl Pro did not take place at Bells Beach this Easter, a retro team-based charity surf comp meant that crowds were nevertheless entertained and delighted by a display of surf skills which harked back to another time.
The 16th annual Bolt Blowers Invitational is usually held at Jan Juc but this year snaffled the premium location from the World Surf League Championship Tour after it moved interstate due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Bolt Blower Invitational raises awareness and funds for mental health research.
It has a few rules of entry, but the one that is held most strictly above all else is that all entrants must ride a single or twin fin surfboard that was manufactured pre-1983.
This means that crowds are entertained by not just the privilege of seeing well-preserved vintage rides take to the waves, but also by entrants who have dug out their old and battered boards from attics, sheds and cellars around the Surf Coast.
Shire mayor Libby Stapleton gave the opening address at the event, saying she was delighted that Bolt Blowers had the opportunity to take on the famous Bells swell.
“Bells has turned out perfect conditions, we don’t often see Bells looking this good at Easter, it’s stunning,” Cr Stapleton said.
After the mayor spoke, a Bolt Blowers anthem was belted out by the crowd followed by a minute of noise for those no longer with us.
Nick Farnell, one of the founders of the event along with Brad Mogford and Chris Buxton, told The Surf Coast Times he was happy with the day.
“It’s a fantastic turnout. Money makes the world go around unfortunately and we try to raise as much money as we can from across the event,” he said.
“The aim of the entry fee, raffle tickets and merchandise is to raise as much money as we can for Strong Brother, Strong Sister which is an Indigenous youth group and also One in Five which does mental health research.”
Funds donated to Strong Brother, Strong Sister will allow young Aboriginal people to access an Aboriginal mentor, while funds donated to One in Five will be used to help fund medical research into mental health.
Committee member Natalie Mogford, who is the only female on the eight-person committee, said she was thrilled with the day’s events.
“Team Dragon won the ‘Teams’ title this year, they came on board in 2019, for the first time and won that year too,” she said.
The ‘Individual Ladies’ title was won by Annike Krooglik and the ‘Individual Blokes’ title was taken by Ean Droomer.
Fabi Aguilar won the Soul Award (for having the most soul) and Marty Hammer took home the Style Master.
“Style Master is a combination of style in the water and style in attitude,” Ms Mogford said.
Ms Mogford was adamant that Bolt Blowers should not replace the Rip Curl Pro despite the boos from the crowd when it was announced the Pro comp would be back next year.
She said this most likely reflected the hunger people have for connecting and community rather than a dislike for the regular comp.
“I think that’s a beautiful thing,” she said.
“It’s not about one or the other there is room for both … I think that shows how much love there is for connection.”
While winners didn’t get to ring the traditional Rip Curl Pro bell this year, Rip Curl did join Surfing Victoria and the Surf Coast Shire as Bolt Blowers event partners for the charity competition.