Bells Beach 50 Year Storm: We Surf For Mental Health

“One year a wave washed in so far that it almost put our fire out and got spectators shoes wet!! We were all cracking up about it and thought it had to be a cheeky message from Shaun.”

Steve Ryan Photography  2017

Carlo Lowdon tells us about the Bells Beach 50 Year Storm Invitational big wave event (@bellsbeach50yearstorm), a local surfing community initiative opening up important conversations about mental health. More than that, it commemorates a life that was tragically lost, and symbolises the hope and support of people who care.

“The idea of a big wave surf event dedicated to Shaun Brooks who died after a long battle with his mental health, was initially founded by Gareth Habelle (@habbertron).

Shaun, a former World Junior and Victorian Open champion, took his own life in 2012 after a long battle with mental illness.  The event channels the fabled history of Bells Beach, with the name a cheeky reference to the 1991 cult movie, Point Break, where the lead character Bodhi paddles out at Bells in the ‘50-year storm’, never to return.”

Carlo explains that the event makes a positive difference to the mental health of many, by raising funds, awareness and education in our local community.  This is an amazing achievement even though they’ve patiently waited years for the storm swell to arrive that will make for an exceptional big wave contest.

“We haven’t run the event yet in 3 years. We are hoping for the perfect conditions in 2020, if restrictions can allow us to run later in the year.  So far, over $20,000 has been raised to benefit mental health programs in Torquay. We support the organisations One in Five ( and Head Space (”

Bells Beach 50 Year Storm have a strong presence on Instagram, where organisers regularly post bios of surfers invited to participate based on votes from the public. And despite the official event date so far elusive, organisers mark the occasion annually (pending global pandemics!).

Steve Ryan Photography  2017

“Each year a welcoming ceremony is held at Bells. Some words are said, we have a traditional indigenous smoking ceremony to welcome the invitees and then all have a party wave together.”

While we wait for the waves, the message is simple:

“Talk to your mates, and ask the hard questions. Please, if you feel this way, reach out to your friends or one of our partners for help.”

Story: Sarah Treacy. Photo: Steve Ryan.