Aussies love the beach, and there’s a proud history of surfing on the Great Ocean Road in Australia.

The history of surfing in Australia goes right back to 1915. Here’s how surfing reached our shores and how it has had an impact on the beach-going ways of Australians ever since. 

Surfing comes to Australia in 1915

Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku brought surfing to Australia in 1915. With Australian Isabel Letham he wowed the crowds gathered at Freshwater Beach in Sydney as he rode the whitewater waves into shore with Isabel standing on his shoulders. 

From there surfing grew in popularity as already beach-loving Aussies found a new way to spend their time riding the waves. 

In the 1960’s surfing booms in popularity in Australia

As surfers rode the waves into the 1960’s a lot was happening to progress surfing in Australia. In the previous decade, visiting American lifesavers had shown their skills at an International Lifesaving Carnival in Torquay – by manoeuvring their fibreglass surfboards across the wave face. 

But in the 1960’s free spirited surfers were moving away from the conservative Lifesaving Club and setting up their own board-riding clubs. They began to change and revolutionise surf culture in Australia as they did.

Surfing companies and contests are created in the late 1960’s

From the creativity of surfers in Torquay, on the Great Ocean Road, a surfing contest was created at the iconic Bells Beach. It is, to today, the longest running annual surf contest in the world. 

While the action was happening at Bells Beach, onshore some creative surfers were dreaming up their own surf brands. Both RipCurl and Quiksilver – now world-renown surf brands – were starting in Torquay, which is now considered Australia’s surf capital.

 Rip Curl originated on the Great Ocean Road

World famous surf brand Rip Curl, originated in Torquay on Australia’s Great Ocean Road.

The company is well known in the surf town of Torquay in Victoria. It is where the brand began, with two mates making surfboards together in the 60’s.

From the beginning, they were designing surfboards and wetsuits, working out of garages and small workshops. Now the brand is a household name and leads the way in designing surf gear and sponsoring surf competitions. 

If you take our Great Ocean Road Tour from Melbourne, your first stop will be Australia’s surf capital – Torquay. These days it is home to many surf and outdoor brands. It is also known for its many surf breaks, and you’ll be able to view one of these when you stop for morning tea. 

If you are interested in Rip Curl, and how it got started on the Great Ocean Road – read this article to find out more!

Surfing becomes more accessible in the 1970’s 

As RipCurl and Quiksilver quickly pioneered new surfboards and gear, surfing became a more accessible pastime in Australia. The surfboards were lighter, leg-ropes were invented to prevent from losing boards. 

Full-length wetsuits made the winter waves fun for everyone, and foam boards and boogie boards encouraged people of all ages to get into the surf. What started as a novel idea to ride the waves – became a pastime that many Australians now enjoy.

 The Rip Curl Pro on the Great Ocean Road

From the creativity of surfers in Torquay a surfing contest was created at the iconic Bells Beach. It is, to today, the longest running annual surf contest in the world. Bells Beach is famous for its big waves and consistent sets. The beach is like an amphitheatre with spectators watching from the surrounding cliffs as the competitors duel it out in the ocean below. 

The Rip Curl Pro is one of the event on the professional world surf tour for both men and women. The competitors hit the waves around Easter (March/April) each year, and compete for the ‘bell’ trophy. Previous winners include Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Layne Beachley, Stephanie Gilmore and Carissa Moore.

Surf on the Great Ocean Road

Along the Great Ocean Road region there are many surf breaks. Expert surfers can wax up the board for the famed breaks of Bells Beach. This renown  icon of Australia’s surf scene is where the Rip Curl Pro is held every Easter. Or take to the big right-handers of Blacknose, famous for a big south-westerly with a heavy sea, beyond Discovery Bay. Beginners can choose from many great beach breaks to try their hand at learning to surf. 

Take a Great Ocean Road Tour

To visit this special part of Australia and learn about the surf history, join us on a day tour from Melbourne. You’ll not only see plenty of waves and incredible beaches, you’ll spend a whole day exploring the coastline. Our tour includes spotting koalas in the wild and viewing the famous rock formations, the Twelve Apostles. 


  • Enjoy morning tea on the picturesque beaches of Victoria’s Surf Coast
  • Scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road
  • See the Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park
  • Visit the Loch Ard Gorge, the site of the Loch Ard shipwreck
  • See koalas in their natural habitat in the eucalyptus forests of the Kennett River township
  • Visit the charming coastal township of Apollo Bay
  • Take a walk in the rainforest at Maits Rest in the Otway Ranges
  • Descend the cliffs at Gibsons Steps to walk along the beach
  • View the Memorial Arch and learn about the history of the Great Ocean Road

Want to learn more? Check out the Torquay Museum Without Walls for some great videos and history of surfing in Australia.


Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator