If the Gold Coast is the performance hub of Australian surfing and NSW is the hipster hive, then the Victorian coastline is where hard-core surfers find their happy place. The 2,512km of coast stretches from Cape Howe in the east to Mt Gambier in the west and forms the southernmost extremity of mainland Australia. The western half of this coastline is exposed directly to the wild whims of the southern Indian Ocean – the engine room for some of Australia’s most incredible line-ups, including the world-famous Bells Beach, near Torquay. But Bells is just the beginning.
The jewel in the star-studded Phillip Island crown, Express Point is a fast-barrelling right-hand reef break located at Smiths Beach. It handles big swells and works best on the mid-to-high tide. Score north or northwest winds here with a grunty swell and smile in the knowledge you are surfing one of the island’s best waves. If the swell isn’t quite big enough then head to the eastern end of Woolamai Beach and surf the crescent-shaped peaks of Magic Lands – Phillip Island won’t disappoint.
Named after the 13th hole at the Barwon Heads Golf Course, this 4.5km stretch of beach holds a variety of quality peaks and is one of the most popular and consistent surf spots in Victoria. From the rocky reefs of The Hole to the east, to the A-frame peaks of Beacons and then all the way to Black Rock in the western end, there is a wave for everyone here. And don’t discount this beach on those bigger days – if you can find a gap to paddle out then 13ths will be sure to dazzle.
Way before it was immortalised on the big screen when bank-robbing, free-spirit Bodhi escaped the clutches of the FBI’s Johnny Utah by paddling into a 50-year storm at Bells Beach (actually filmed in Oregon), this arc of the Surf Coast Shire has long been an Australian icon. Bells has hosted an annual surfing contest since 1962, which morphed into the first serious pro event in 1973 and is now held each Easter – making it the sport’s longest-running pro event. But if you want a wave out there, then it’s best to wait until the pros have headed home. Then coincide your visit with a fresh ground swell - any time of the year but best in autumn and winter - and you’ll be in heaven as the outer peak delivers you into the infamous Bells Bowl. Just steer clear of The Button ...
While Bells gets all the mainstream attention it is Winki Pop that wins the affection of many surfers. Located just east of The Button and Bells Bowl, Winki holds better shape in a wider range of conditions. The 400m-long right-hander breaks like a point, but starts on a protruding reef and features two distinct sections. The first section is Uppers and the second section is Lowers, and with a big swell running, Lowers has been compared to J-Bay. Winki has everything from barrel sections to punchy pockets and can handle size. The paddle out is from Bells Beach, past The Button and into the peak. Timing is everything on a big day because The Button, a vortex of submerged rock, is no place to linger.
Just a few kilometres east of Lorne on the Great Ocean Road, Cathedral Rock is a popular right-hand reef break that is sheltered from southwest winds, thanks to Lorne Point. This makes it one of the best options when the winds are cranking, but sadly this also adds to the crowd density here. If you can find a place in the pecking order out here, then you’ll be rewarded with some fast walls and occasional barrels on this Cape Otway classic.
Also known as Two Mile, Easter Reef is located at the west head of Port Campbell. It’s a very long paddle from the harbour, so best to take a boat out to this offshore gem. The reef produces a stunning right hander with an intimidating take-off that leads straight into a barrel section. To break properly it needs a large swell from the south west and the bigger the better here – the reef handles big swells with ease and has become a focal point for big-wave surfers.
As iconic for its tricky access as it is for its heaving barrels, The Well is best suited to experienced surfers and breaks best at high tide. Though it's close to Peterborough access is not easy – you’ll reach the line-up by climbing through a tunnel and jumping off a rocky shelf. The right-hand reef break has featured in many films over the years, lifting the lid on its many virtues. Respect the locals along this coastline and you may be lucky enough to unlock even more gems.
Nestled in the western end of the Great Ocean Road at Logan’s Beach, Japs is a punchy beachbreak that faces south and picks up swell most of the year. Known for its quality lefts and rights, Japs works best from mid-high tide. Strike a northerly breeze here and you’ll be barrel hunting in no time. This stretch of coastline is also a nursery for southern right whales, which return to the area between July and October each year to give birth to their calves before the journey south to Antarctica, so it’s a pretty awesome place to catch the waves and see the wildlife at the same time..
Located to the west of the Hopkins Rivermouth, you’ll discover a shallow and very hollow little left (and occasionally a short right) known as Dredges. This wave relies on the sand movement across a submerged reef to be at its optimum, but even when the lefts are pinching, you’ll still get some deep tubes. It’s quite a challenging break, so if you’re not brimming with confidence, then Flume or Japs may suit you better.
Sheltered by Point Danger, Blacknose Point is a right-hand point break that works in large south and southwest swells with southwest winds blowing offshore, so watchout for that deep southern Indian Ocean system and reward yourself with one of Victoria’s westernmost waves. Be nice to the locals as they get swamped when conditions align. If you make friends in the line-up then you may even be introduced to another right-hand point in the area known as Rifle Range. But only if you’re nice.