Simon’s Bells – Meet the legend

April 7, 2022 BY

RIGHT: Simon's 1977 experiences are told through images captured by photographers Dick Hoole and Jack McCoy from Propeller Promotions.

The annual contest at Bells Beach represents a unique challenge for surfers – to win you must defeat the best surfers in the world and also confront the physically testing power of the Southern Ocean.

The competition commenced in 1962 and has run continuously on an annual basis until COVID disrupted the cycle over 2020 and 2021.

The event became a professional competition in 1973 and became commonly known as the Rip Curl Pro some 20 years later.

Winning at Bells is a dream for most, and many world champions have only won it once. In contrast to this, Sydney surfer Simon Anderson won Bells in 1977, then again in 1981.

Simon’s win in 1981 also left a legacy – in the huge surf of the Bells contest in 1981 Simon ushered in pro surfing’s modern era using revolutionary equipment.

The Simon’s Bells exhibition at the Australian National Surf Museum celebrates this story.

Simon’s 1977 experiences are told through images captured by photographers Dick Hoole and Jack McCoy from Propeller Promotions. This duo took over a thousand photographs at Bells in 1977 which were sent off to a magazine only to be stored and forgotten for over 40 years.

The collection later found its way into the Australian National Surfing Museum archives. Now, years later, the never before seen black and white images provide an insight to the loose and carefree atmosphere of the early years of surfing’s pro tour. They also provide a great visual record of Simon’s breakthrough win that year.

At Bells in 1981 Simon demonstrated the performance potential of his new three-finned ‘Thruster’ design, dominating the contest held in giant six-metre waves. Simon had a competitive advantage in the challenging conditions that year, his then unique design enabled him to surf with speed, control and confidence while others were struggling. The surfing world sat up and took notice of this revolutionary design.

Simon’s three-fin layout has gone on to become the most popular, copied and long-lived design in modern surfing history. Since 1983 every pro world champion has been riding “Thruster” boards to competitive success and to this day most pros still ride boards based on Simon’s original three-fin concept.

Nine of the boards surfed at Big Bells in 1981 can be found display at the museum. These boards tell the story of the transition away from single fin surfboards to twin fins and highlight the technological change that was taking place as surfers/shapers looked for any competitive edge.

A unique character, a revolutionary design, a spectacular surfing exhibition.

You can view Simon’s Bells and meet countless other industry legends at the museum located in Torquay’s Surf City Precinct … just down the road from Bells Beach.