Media baron Kerry Packer would introduce full-blown professionalism to cricket in 1977, but Rip Curl’s bold announcement four years earlier was history-making. And there were many within surfing who deplored the introduction of the cash culture, particularly at Bells, which in its own way was as hallowed a playing field as Wimbledon.
Since its inception in the early 1960s, the Bells meet had been frequently blessed with big, powerful waves which sorely tested the skill and courage of Australia’s leading surfers and big wave specialists. In its very early days big wave legends like Bob Pike, Peter Troy and Nipper Williams would dust down their guns and perform in the only Australian contest that regularly offered waves which matched Hawaii’s for size and power.
Of course, not every year was vintage, but in 1965 the swell peaked at almost 20 feet and in 1969 most of the contest was held in superb surf nudging 10 feet. With conditions like this it was natural that Bells should become the number one performance forum in the country.
So in 1973 the Rip Curl Pro became Australia’s first professional surfing event, with the country’s best competing for beer money which was spent immediately in the local pub.