Joe Turpel uncovers his connection with Bells
Californian commentator, Joe Turpel, has been the voice of the Rip Curl Pro for more than a decade and shares a deep love and connection to Bells Beach that continues to bring him back year after year.
First travelling to Bells Beach as a full-time commentator for the World Surf League in 2012, Turpel was thrust straight into the limelight of surfing history as soon as he slid in the door.
The scene was set as an instant classic, with 11-time world champion Kelly Slater and Australia’s favourite son Mick Fanning doing battle in what would become one of the most memorable moments in Bells history.
“Seeing Bells firing for the first time and two of the all-time greats battling it out was crazy… you could see how much it meant to both of them,” Turpel said.
“Kelly did a crazy full rotation air in the final and got a 10-point ride, however, Mick still won the event.
“I started realizing what a rivalry there was between the two… Mick was able to win as a wildcard [in 2001] – that was his big moment as a young teenager – and Kelly broke Tom Curren’s record for most wins at Bells ever… both surfers had so many moments at Bells.
“The energy in the crowd that day was so cool, it was electric and definitely a moment I will never forget.”
Since 2012, Turpel has been back at Bells almost every year, citing it as “almost a second home”.
The American said there was so much more to Bells than just the long lines emerging from the horizon.
“There is so much to take in at Bells and there is so much in surfing that relates to discovery.
“Being one of the longest-running surfing events in history, you can go through so many different eras and find all these big moments that all the legends have had at Bells Beach.
The history is a big part of what makes Bells so special – you walk up the stairs and see names like Gail Couper, who is a 10-time winner and a former local teacher who no one could beat.
“Bells has also been through all the changes in surfing through both the longboard and shortboard revolution. For me, it’s all the stories, all the legendary surfers who have won and rung the bell… it really means a lot to me when I walk up the stairs of Bells, it’s definitely one of my favourite stops on tour.”
Going into the Rip Curl Pro, a new brigade of youngsters is coming through the ranks, with world number one Molly Picklum (20 years old) and number two Caity Simmers (17 years old) leading the charge on the women’s side.
While acknowledging the changing of the guard, Turpel still believes that some legends of the sport can still contend and win this year’s event.
“There seems to be eras at Bells, especially on the women’s side where surfers tend to go back to back, particularly on the women’s side,” he said.
“Stephanie Gilmore had a run, Sally Fitzgibbons did, and so did Courtney Conologue.
In saying that, I think that’s for Tyler Wright now, she is looking better than I have ever seen her – Bells means a lot to her, her main sponsor Rip Curl is here.
“While I am really enjoying this youth movement, I think Tyler Wright is going to show up and go back to back.”
On the men’s side, Turpel is in two minds, with Brazilian Filipe Toledo and Australian powerhouse Ethan Ewing among his potential winners.
“I think Filipe will be fired up after his early loss in Portugal, but I think I am going to have to go with Ethan (Ewing),” he said.
“His tempo in the Bells bowl is amazing and he is just so easy to watch… I feel it could be his turn to take out the bell this year.”