This was a much braver move than it might sound today. While major league sports such as tennis and golf had embraced professionalism in the 1960s, competitive surfing in the early 1970s was still in its embryonic stage, with only a few dedicated amateur administrators and no sponsorship support.
The first Rip Curl Pro in 1973 was a relatively small affair, with surfers competing for cash prizes that amounted to little more than beer money. But the contest, won by the legendary Michael Peterson, set the wheels of the professional train in motion. By 1974 companies like Rip Curl and Coca-Cola sponsored the first Australian professional tour. The contests attracted most of the finest surfers from around the world and created a higher profile for surfing – from the beach to the boardroom. While the story of the Bells Beach Easter Classic is a major chapter in the history of Australian surfing, the first Rip Curl Pro marks the true beginning of surfing’s conversion to professionalism.