The face behind the Rip Curl Pro

April 6, 2023 BY

Surfing Victoria general manager Elley Harrison attended her first Rip Curl Pro in 2001, and has played a pivotal role in its preparation every year since. Photo: VINNIE VAN OORSCHOT

A pivotal cog in the Rip Curl Pro has taken a moment to look back on 22 years of service behind the scenes of the iconic event as the annual surfing contest rolls into Bells Beach for the 60th time.

Surfing Victoria general manager Elley Harrison attended her first Rip Curl Pro in 2001 for work placement as part of her Bachelor of Sports Adminstration/Business Management degree, when Mick Fanning made history by winning the event as a wildcard.

A few months later, Harrison was appointed general manager of Surfing Victoria and has remained integral to surf development across the state since.

“I’ve never wanted to be the face of anything, that’s not my strength, I’m just happy to do the work that needs to be done, especially when it comes to the Rip Curl Pro,” she said.

Harrison’s work preparing the Rip Curl begins months in advance, co-ordinating workers, paying staff, and dealing with the World Surf League (WSL) each year.

Elley Harrison (left) with Surfing Victoria Indigenous aquatics manager Jordie Campbell (centre) and CEO Adam Robertson receiving a Future Healthy Award. Photo: VICHEALTH


“It has always been the busiest time of the year since I’ve started working here, it takes the most time out of all of the thing we do, and all for 10 days of either waiting or surfing,” she said.

“I can’t do what I do without the people around me and I can’t credit them enough.

“The people I work with are the reason I’ve been there for 20 years, not because I’m a mad keen surfer or anything, it’s always a great team to work with and I consider myself lucky to be in the position that I am in.

“I am very fortunate to have had two very supportive CEOs during my time at Surfing Vic in Max Wells and now Adam Robertson, as well as going to work every day with a group of people that are my friends as well as my work colleagues.”

Harrison said one of the biggest changes over the years had been the growth of the women’s circuit, particularly at Bells Beach.

“As most surfing fans know, back when the Rip Curl Pro began there were two separate events for male and female surfers which were sponsored separately, and that took a long time to combine.