The world comes to the Surf Coast

Jan Juc's Tully Wylie earned a wildcard spot in the Rip Curl Pro last weekend. (Liam Robertson)

The region’s biggest surfing event has begun, with the 61st edition of the iconic Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach kicking off on Tuesday (March 26).

The world’s longest-running surfing competition, the World Surf League (WSL) Championship tour event draws tens of thousands of people to the region, as well as the world’s best surfing talent.

The 2024 field includes three-time men’s world champion Gabriel Medina, current women’s world champion Caroline Marks, reigning women’s Bells Beach winner Tyler Wright and arguably the greatest of all time, Kelly Slater.

Surf Coast Shire mayor Liz Pattison said the buzz the event generated around town was always exciting.

“There are more people about, the surf is good… as some would say, it’s pumping,” Mayor Pattison said.

Mayor Pattison said the Rip Curl Pro, which delivers more than $8 million into the local economy and attracts around 35,000 visitors each year, was one of the most important annual events on the Shire Coast calendar.

“Surfing and the Surf Coast Shire, it’s all one, and the Rip Curl Pro really talks to that culture we have within our community here,” she said.

“It’s something so many in our community are really passionate about, so having pro surfers out and about in our community, as well as competing for our up-and-coming surfers and all keen surfers to see, it’s quite special.

“But then on another level, there’s the exposure worldwide. There’s so many people that want to come and visit, to have a holiday and see Bells Beach as part of a broader tourism experience in the region.”