Wild times at the Tracks media house, Bells Beach 2000
Given the cancellation of the Sunset Open, the WSL and its fans must now set their sights on the Rip Curl Pro Bells , the next scheduled CT event on the tour (April 1-11 2021).
While we can expect the WSL broadcast to bring its cosy, honest-to-goodness, country-club vibe to Bells, much of the mythology surrounding the fabled Easter event is based on more hedonistic goings on behind the scenes. Below Matt George reflects on wilder times at the Tracks House after the 2000 Bells final.
It was a Sunday that saw Sunny Garcia ringing the bell of the 2000 Rip Curl Pro on a beach called Gibson’s Steps, a couple hours to the south of Bells Beach. Due to small conditions the contest had been moved there and the awards ceremony had taken place on the afternoon sand. In a move that Rip Curl’s CEO Claw Warbrick called ‘organic’ the famed belled trophies were offered from atop an esky of post-contest Tooheys Dry and a couple of cartons of Chitticks meat pies. It was the end of a sunburned Easter weekend and the race back to the Torquay pub was soon underway. Everybody made it by dusk.
So after the lead signer of the band got in a fist fight with his drummer on stage and after the fire broke out in the women’s bathroom due to bottle rockets that were fired into a stall in order to interrupt a fornicating couple, it seemed another Rip Curl Bells Beach Easter weekend had come to a fitting close. When in fact, due to a bold proclamation announced by Rip Curl’s Neil Ridgway, it had just begun. It seems Neil, who was a former Tracks editor, was taking long odds on his chances of being able to make it back to the Tracks media house, a good kilometre away, on foot and completely nude, without being arrested. So on this night, two, quiet, older unsuspecting citizens of Torquay were about to have a close encounter with just one of the thousands of surfers who descend upon this small hamlet each year. So as the very naked Neil Ridgway was working his way back to the media house, a can of Victoria Bitter in each hand and with a small, trailing entourage encouraging his efforts, a cop car came rolling down the street. Neil, always a crowd pleaser, timed it just right. After all, this is a man who has run in the very same condition with the bulls at Pamplona. Anyway, Neil ran across the road just in time, bailed over a small picket fence and tuck and rolled into the older couple’s front yard. The cop never knew he was there. Neil stood up in triumph, VB’s on high and the entourage roared. Then Neil broke into ‘Scotland The Brave’ and began to dance a jig. Just then the older woman, standing in her picture window and regarding the nude spectre dancing in the moonlight in her own front yard, could be heard calling out to her husband. “John? John? There seems to be a naked surfer in our front yard...and I think he’s been drinking beer.”
By 2:00am, Ridgway’s successful arrival at the Tracks house had been met by exultant fanfare and pomp. In celebration, shimmying on top of the kitchen counter, one of the official Rip Curl Contest Dancers, fresh from her championship mud wrestling bout in Geelong, had stripped down to thong and high heeled boots, releasing an unbridled joy that surged through the turgid standing room only crowd. The dancer’s lesbian lover, also topless, was standing to her side, egging her on with suggestive dance moves of her own. The boys all clinked bottles at this remarkable sight, head-butted each other, bellowed sinfully and slopped more Tooheys Dry all over hell. Not surprisingly, the topless mud wrestler lost her footing on a daub of Vegemite, sending her ass over teakettle into the throng. Much to the delight of a 14-year-old junior competitor out past his bedtime who was fortunate to break her fall and affect his first experience with female mammary glands, shall we say, firsthand. The mud wrestler’s lesbian lover waded in to the rescue, surprisingly fast for her size.
So after the cops left with the stereo system, there was a break in the music. But there was a foxy older journalist sent down from the Melbourne Age who grabbed one of Kelly Slater’s acoustic guitars, sat on the same counter as the mud wrestler and began to play. This settled the crowd. The foxy journalist’s mousy assistant gazed at her with tears of envy welling in her eyes as she always did at times like this. Then the mousy blond dutifully retired to the tree house in the back yard with a giant Western Australian who had never made it out of his first heat. The moon seemed to rise quickly as the foxy journalist sang of romances gained and lost. So the lucky ones began to pair up and move into private corners and nooks and stairwells, seeking out the shadows. The foxy journalist finished her last song, and with her eyes, beckoned a handsome quarter finalist into the next room. And 15 minutes later, into the room beyond that. And finally, as she turned out the light, she raised her eyes to his and his world swayed like a boat at sea.
She took him places he had never been.
At dawn, the morning edition of the Geelong Herald landed on the porch of the Tracks media house. In the police blotter on page eight was the mention that some “Easter surfie revellers” had, “Sometime after midnight” replaced the corporate flags in front of the Rip Curl headquarters by running two pair of, “Soiled men’s undergarments” up the tall flagpole in their place. The “Landmark flagpole that when treated with better dignity, serves as a welcome to all surfers to Bells Beach”.
The miscreants were reported to be still at large.
And with that the 2000 Rip Curl Pro had come to its true end.
The story above appears in the Tracks 50th-anniversay issue. It is also an excerpt from Matt George's book ‘IN DEEP’. Langton Press, 2021