Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment

SANE was founded in 1987 when a group of Torquay surfers and friends became increasingly
concerned about the management of the fragile coastline especially in the Bells Beach area.


web Charlie&Cheyne
Charlie Bartlett with surfer Cheyne Horan Photo courtesy John Witzig

The founder of SANE, Charles Bartlett, known as “Charles of the Sea” began lobbying to protect Bells Beach, a place he called the jewel in the crown of surfing in Australia. At the time there were ongoing issues of degradation of the Bells Beach headland. Crowds at the Easter contest were trampling the fragile cliffs and native trees and plants, car parks were being expanded more asphalt was introduced, rubbish disposal, problems with overnight campers and lack of toilets were concerns.

Ecological stewardship was largely unheard of and Charles was instrumental is raising environmental issues to the relevant authorities, His aim was to draw attention to the huge gulf that had opened up between the community and the then Barrabool Shire about appropriate land management practice.

SANE has been working to restore the balance at Bells now for some 27 years. Working bees created fenced off areas and working groups  began replanting. They built lookouts to protect vegetation and began an education programme to stop the careless attitude about preservation.  The group coined the now iconic slogan about Bells. DON’T DESTROY WHAT YOU CAME TO ENJOY

Under the stewardship of Graeme Stockton the revegetation projects have been nothing short of incredible and have given SANE credibility and lead to the expansion of the group into a much-respected protector of our coast.

The once bare and eroding cliff tops are now abundant with indigenous planting of Coastal Moonah, Beard Heath, Tussock Grass, Seaberry, Saltbush and Cushion Bush among others and habitat restoration has been restored for the threatened Rufous Bristlebird   and Swamp Antechinus.  The sweeping heathlands make a spectacular entrance to Bells Beach especially in summer when the Moonahs are in bloom. The education programs run by SANE have helped raise awareness of protecting this special place. Surfers, walkers, bike riders and local residents indeed all owe a debt of gratitude to the members of SANE who still keep a careful eye on all that happens in the area and work tirelessly to maintain its beauty. It is worth taking a walk out along the coast on the Surf Coast walk and to admire the spectacular ocean views and see the conservation work that SANE have overseen.