You think the 2015 Rip Curl Pro is a shaggy buffalo in terms of size and girth and lack of mobility? I ain’t arguing. But take it back 40 years. Bells ’75—now that thing was a beast. Opened with a 72-man trails event. Then the women’s comp. Then four separate rounds of the men’s main event. Six-man heats. Points-per-maneuver judging format, so we’re talking four-digit point totals per surferper heat. The math! Jesus, the math! Contest officials put away tankards of coffee, gobbled Excedrin by the handful, run 10 gross of #2 pencils down to tiny nubbins—and got the fucker done in four days.

Excerpts from veteran Aussie surf writer Geoff Luton’s reported for Surfing:
Round One. By the grace of good karma and the prevailing full moon conditions, the surf transformed itself overnight into a straight and clean six-to-eight-foot groundswell. So without even a Praise to Allah it was straight into Round One, minus Nat Young, Larry Bertlemann, Reno Abellira, Gerry Lopez and Rick Rasmussen, all of whom failed to show (much to the relief of five anxious Aussie alternates.)

The surf maintained its quality throughout the round. After the smoke had cleared from a hot and intense day of no-holds-barred, go-for-it competition, and after all the necessary calculations and been made and double-checked, pre-contest favorite Shaun Tomson emerged as the leader, slightly ahead of Jeff Hakman. Mark Warren and Michael Peterson were 3rd and 4th, respectively.

Round Two and Three. The following day, with karma still very much on the side of contest officials, the surf picked up even further, averaging out at around the eight-to-ten-foot mark, with the occasional 12-footer to keep the old adrenalin pumping. The day wasn’t without its hangups, though. The wind started out as light offshore, but as the day progressed it got stronger and stronger until if finally swung sideshore and blew the place out. Still, the organizers managed to get through two complete rounds, thereby taking advantage of the swell while it lasted.

The most impressive surfer of the day was probably young Mark Richards, who carved it up in a manner that earned him 2,000 points for a single round, including one boggling Bells beauty that netting Mark over 700 points all by itself. On paper, though, Tomson remained comfortably in front, with Cairns and Hakman looking to be the big dangers. Peterson had dropped further back in the field, and some skeptics and fellow competitors had already made the fatal mistake of writing him off.

Round Four. As so often the case in professional surfing contests, the last day is a gigantic anticlimax. It went something like this. The waves in the morning were still averaging around the eight-foot mark and were quite reasonable. So despite the heavy rain and chilly conditions, Round Four got under way on schedule. Everything was proceeding smoothly until the third or fourth heat, when surface conditions began to deteriorate at an alarming rate.

Luckily for Michael Peterson, he drew the second heat. Surfing like a man possessed, Peterson waved and wiggled, powered and pivoted over and under every available inch of wave space, pulling out all the stops as only he can, to amass well over 2,000 points. Tomson, on the other hand, drew a later heat. Possibly because he was fairly well out in front and perhaps lulled into a false sense of security, he close to cruise, to play it safe, only to find, like so many surfers before him, that a certain phenomenon by the name of Michael Peterson had come from nowhere to snatch the first-prize check. It was his third straight will. Final score: Peterson 3, Bells 0.

1. Michael Peterson
2. Shaun Tomson
3. Mark Warren
4. Jeff Hakman
5 Mark Richards
6. Wayne Lynch