Surfing on the Great Ocean Road

Surfing on the Great Ocean Road

Whether you followed the call of the waves to surf world class beaches or you’re a traveller looking for some adventure along your journey, you’re guaranteed to have a blast surfing the legendary Southern Ocean swells.

The Great Ocean Road coast is home to some of surfing professionals’ favourite surf spots. Most famous of all is internationally renowned Bells Beach, home to the annual Rip Curl Pro event — a hallmark event for Victoria.

The little beach towns along the coast are blessed with friendly locals, a laid back surf culture and well-equipped businesses to get you kitted out and ready to surf. Just try not to get too distracted by all the beautiful beaches, craggy limestone cliffs and stunning rainforest backdrops while you’re out in the water.

Learning to surf

With plenty of safe beaches and gentle waves, the Great Ocean Road is a great place to learn the ropes. If you’re an inexperienced or beginner surfer, the best way to get started is to take a surf lesson. These are usually held by qualified professionals on easier breaks. After a two-hour lesson, you’ll have the skills you need to pick the right waves, stand up on your board and have some fun in the surf. Many of the beaches are patrolled in summer, and lifesavers can give advice on local breaks, reefs, tides and currents.

Find the best beaches to learn to surf on the Great Ocean Road

Where to get your gear

There are plenty of places to stock up if you didn’t bring your gear with you. Be sure to grab a steamer, that is, a full length wetsuit. The water gets very chilly so a wetsuit will keep you toasty warm and protect you from a belly rash. If you’re a beginner, get a big foam board. The bigger the board, the easier it is to stand up. You’ll find surfboards (hard and soft) and wetsuits for hire around town at local surf schools or surf shops.

If you’re staying a while and don’t want to return your gear every day, consider buying. Torquay at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road is the birthplace of Australian surf culture and home to a number of discount surf outlets. The leading surf brands Rip Curl and Quiksilver were established here more than 30 years ago and are now global leaders in surf, snow and adventure sports gear. You’ll find everything you need from top quality wetsuits, swimwear and board wax to an affordable new board. Hint: check out the surf seconds stores on Baines Crescent in Torquay for a great wetsuit deal

Where to surf on the Great Ocean Road

The coastline from Torquay to Portland has endless choices of incredible surf spots dotted along it. You get a clue that the surf is pumping when car parks along the Great Ocean Road are full of local tradespeople’s vans and utes — having downed tools for the day to capitalise on the good conditions.


The Surf Coast

It’s all in the name, this is the epicentre of Victorian surfing. This stretch of coastline has some of Australia’s top surf spots for all levels. Torquay Cosy Corner, Anglesea Main Beach, Point Roadknight and Lorne Main Beach are all great beginner spots. These patrolled beaches boast small, gentle waves and surf lessons are available. If you’re looking for something more challenging, try Torquay Back Beach, Jan Juc, Point Addis and Fairhaven Beach. Experienced surfers will love the exposed point break at Cathedral Rock.


Apollo Bay

The sheltered harbour of Apollo Bay creates a fantastic and safe spot to learn to surf. The waves on this eastern-facing beach get bigger and stronger as you head further from the harbour. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure beach for all skill levels. More experienced surfers can hit Marengo Beach for offshore and beach breaks or Skenes Creek Beach.


Warrnambool to Portland

Port Fairy East Beach and Warrnambool Main Beach have prime conditions for beginners. Both are long sandy beaches with waves breaking on sandbars, resulting in easy-to-ride waves. Bridgwater Bay in Portland offers more sheltered and beginner-friendly surfing. Level-up at more difficult breaks around Warrnambool including the river break at Dredges and exposed beach breaks The Cutting and Japs. Experienced surfers are spoilt for choice in Portland. Find powerful breaks and long rides dotted all along the coast from Bridgewater Bay to Narrawong Beach.


Where to avoid

Bells Beach may be the most famous surf beach on the coast, but it is also one of the most dangerous. Between Cape Otway and Warrnambool is not the place for the newbie surfer, with bigger swells and tougher conditions. The 12 Apostles Coast may look like an epic spot to catch a wave but these powerful waves should only be tackled by pros. Even confident surfers can quickly get into trouble at these spots, so it’s best to watch the action from the beach.


How to find the perfect spot

Duck into the local Visitor Information Centre or the local surf hire to check the conditions and find the best spot for your skill level. Friendly locals are the best source of knowledge about the town’s surf and they’ll be happy to help. Websites like Magicseaweed and Swellnet are another fantastic tool to check surf conditions before you land in town. You can even watch live surf cams to see what’s brewing. Remember to never surf somewhere you don’t know the conditions. Visit the Beach Safe website for more information.

Follow surfer etiquette

There are a few things you need to know before hitting the surf. Firstly respect the locals, they’ve been surfing these breaks for years and if they tell you not to surf somewhere, believe them. Likewise, respect the environment and leave no trace.

Never drop in on someone else’s wave and don’t be a wave hog. Cutting in front of someone on a wave is a surefire way to get into a collision. The person who is further out on the wave and has been waiting longest usually has the right of way. Communicate with your fellow surfers and hang onto your board. If you make a mistake, no worries! Just apologise, surfers are easy going and won’t hold it against you.

If you’re learning amongst the breaking waves, just be mindful of your fellow beginners and always hang on to your board so it doesn’t hit someone mid-flight, it may be foam, but it can still hurt.

Finally, don’t surf a beach that’s outside your ability. Risking your life and being rescued by surf patrol isn’t a cool story to tell when you get back home.

When the sun is shining and the waves are pumping there is no better place to be than on your board, surfing the breaks along the Great Ocean Road. We’ll see you out there!

Follow Lauren’s weekend of learning to surf in Torquay


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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.