Easter @ Bells

What you don’t realise standing on the beach at Bells is the effect of the cliffs on the atmosphere in the water. The headland and cliffs to Winkipop enhance the roar of the crowd and when something eventful takes place it’s almost deafening in the water, it’s something you never realise on the beach. It really is a natural amphitheatre.

The other notable feature besides the waves this Easter was the weather, flawless for the whole week.

This year I was contracted to shoot the Bells event for Surfline which I was really stoked about. I was also stoked about the forecast that seemed almost unfair as the past six months around here has been howling onshore with little to no swell. The pro’s bring the waves with them it seems. The only downside to such a good run of waves was the schedule being so intense. Shooting from 6am – 6pm then dealing with the aftermath that is gigabytes of metadata became my life for five days. I love it though it wore me down. Two lay-days next year please Huey.

High tide meant Rincon which was lining up beautifully. 

Winki – A scene that never changed over 5 days of competition. 

The highlight for me was on the final morning, or so I thought it was. Josh Kerr nailed what the commentators were calling the best air in the Bells Bowl’s history. I was swimming at the time and thought to myself “yea you keep saying that, I’ve got the water angle”, anyway it took only a few hours for that claim to be completely shattered. I’d found myself in the water again for the final, Mick v. Slater, hoping the long lulls didn’t drag me too far inside so as to get in the way. I think that would have to be an event photographer’s biggest nightmare.

Kerr’s morning punt. 

I thought my eardrums were going to burst on Mick’s first two waves, every turn was deafening as the crowd eyed off his every move. However it was Slaters now infamous air that literally blew me away such was the noise from the beach. Even Micks subsequent winning wave didn’t evoke that roar from the crowd again, it’s something images cannot portray.

The lasting impression for me was immediately after the final buzzer; Mick broke down, if only temporarily, on knowing he’d won. Moments later he was into celebration mode.

Sitting in the media room that night sifting through wads of photos, with a nice view of the cliffs and hinterland, a roaring storm blew in. It was like no other I’d seen at Bells, it blew half the event out to sea. My friend captured this eerie image of the fence that was blown down. Make of it what you will. 

Image courtesy of Josh Johnston-baxter.

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