Classic. Epic. All-time. Legendary. Iconic. Bells Beach is probably the only surf venue where these terms aren’t played out or undeserving. The wave. The stories. The legacy. The feeling here. It’s all so damn classic. On my first day interning at SURFING Magazine I was told by Evan Slater and Nathan Myers that terms like “legend” and “classic” and “epic” should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. I decided this morning that those words were made for the 50th Anniversary of the Rip Curl Pro Bells. It’s that classic. That epic. That iconic.
This morning I walked down the hallowed path from Winkipop to Bells and surveyed the scene. A photo montage has been set up along the walkway chronicling some pretty incredible moments over the 50 years since Glen Ritchie rang the first ever bell. Names like Tom Curren, Martin Potter, Tom Carroll, Kelly Slater, Sunny Garcia, Mark Richards, Michael Peterson, Barton Lynch and just a myriad of legends appeared along the route to the event zone, conjuring up some pretty memorable moments from gromhood. Then a gust of wind whipped into my jacket. The sun came out. And while the waves were small, the air was electric. I spoke with wildcard Stu Kennedy (who just arrived after a 36-hour mission from Scotland to make the event) and Carissa Moore. Everything felt epic.
And then, as if flown in from a stiff devil wind specifically designed to ruin my early morning moment, Britney Spears’s “Hold Me Against You” hit the speakers and sucked every ounce of stoke from my body. Haven’t we gone over this before? Like last year? The music at surf events is an element of our “sport” that needs some attention. No man should walk up to Bells in his puffy jacket with that Australian sun on his face and a strong offshore wind at his back while surveying the fabled lineup and have to hear Britney Spears. (And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Britney — this doesn’t concern her so much — but at 7 a.m. on day one of the 50th Anniversary at Bells, there should be no Britney blasting.)
Aside from that little moment, I couldn’t be more excited to be at this contest. This has to be one of the most incredible events to attend. The entire southern edge of Australia is headed this way for Easter weekend, swell and good weather are forecast, and we could be staring down the barrel of a classic week at Bells. This afternoon at the SURFING Magazine house in Torquay we made a list of things we want to do this week and made our picks for Round 1. And here they are:
To Do: SURFING Magazine’s Bells Bucket List
• Eat baked eggs at Red Till in Anglesea again (and again)
• Drive the Great Ocean Road
• Do an in-depth interview with Alana Blanchard on our patio because we can
• Get Wilko a date for the always-epic Media Night Ball
• Attend the Tracks Magazine party (you guys better invite us)
• Use our American accents to get unprecedented access everywhere
• Enjoy the contest from the newly installed patio on the beer garden that overlooks the bowl (if we can’t have Dane, Kekoa and Freddy P, we will take a new patio — it’s much appreciated)
• Get barreled at Jan Juc beachbreak (I saw Kolohe do it last year, it is possible, sorta)
• Get as classic as possible with Pat Gudauskas
• Drink an Avatar with Chris Davidson and Davey Cathels
• Beat Brett Simpson at some kind of sport
• Go to Melbourne for some culture and dive bars
• (Feel free to add your suggestions)
My heat-by-heat picks for Round 1:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan, Alejo Muniz, Raoni Montero: The kid did some damage at Snapper. Good style, flair and with fun-sized surf on tap he should be able to oust the seriously lethal backhand of Ace Buchan. If it’s over 4-foot though, Ace’s backhand beats Alejo.
Heat 2: Taj Burrow, Adam Melling, Josh Kerr: There’s really no one surfing as enthusiastic as Taj Burrow right now. His Firewires look energetic and full of pop, his style is the one we all can’t get enough of; it’s the perfect blend of flash and fluidity. We want Taj in this and we always will.
Heat 3: Owen Wright, Heitor Alves, Bobby Martinez: This one took some analysis. Bobby isn’t going to go easily, and Heitor can come to play too. But Owen gets the nod thanks to his modern twists. His ability to tweak one a few more notches will give him the edge. But if the forecast calls for anything over 4-foot, Bobby might be get the win. Plus Bobby has a few fresh Merricks underfoot again, and they look like they belong there.
Heat 4: Mick Fanning, Tiago Pires, Gabriel Medina: Let’s be honest here: Mick Fanning is going to come into this contest with steam coming out his ears. After his previous result on his home court (an uncharacteristic Round 3 loss), Mick will look on point again. Besides, Dusty isn’t in this heat, right?
Heat 5: Jordy Smith, Dusty Payne, Stu Kennedy: Jordy’s in love. And it’s helping. With a babe, the beast has been tamed on land, but in the water, he’s still looking crisp — and with waves that allow you to carve and attack the lip, Jordy gets the edge. Stu Kennedy just stepped off a plane from Scotland, so he’s going to need a few days.
Heat 6: Kelly Slater, Kai Otton, Adam Robertson: Robbo has shown that there is no one who knows this wave like him. If this were a later round, it’d be hard not to pick Kelly, but with it being Round 1, I’m thinking Adam will be looking strong to sneak one past the great one. And if Adam Robertson wins, don’t expect him to lose before the quarters.
Heat 7: Jeremy Flores, Taylor Knox, Cory Lopez: Call this a passion pick. Who doesn’t want to see Taylor go Mad at 4- to 6-foot Bells? Hell, Jeremy and Cory would enjoy that.
Heat 8: Michel Bourez, Kieren Perrow, Gabe Kling: Michel has been looking especially strong on his forehand. He’s riding Firewires and something seems to be working on them for him. Rippable Bells, the Spartan takes this.
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood, Matt Wilkinson, Daniel Ross: Dan Ross may be Core Score up (the dude is no nonsense ripping, a nice guy who charges and is an ambassador for Patagonia. He’s just the man) but Wilko is the en vogue guy of the moment. With Dane out, Wilko is the one we’re running to have a beer with and watch when he slips the jersey on.
Heat 10: Bede Durbidge, CJ Hobgood, Joel Parkinson: CJ Hobgood is coming off one of the worst starts in his career at Snapper. His board looked off, he got frustrated and never looked right. He’ll be back. He’s already looking fresh at Winkipop warm-ups, but Parko at Bells? That’s just what beer garden patio was built for.
Heat 11: Adriano de Souza, Chris Davidson, Julian Wilson: Julian’s heat against Taj at Snapper showed us something: he can handle pressure and belongs here. And sure, Taj got him and he made a crucial mistake, pearling in the barrel on what could have been his clinching wave, but he just showed us that he’s a legit World Tour surfer who should scare everyone he draws. If he brings his repertoire with him, look for him in Round 3.
Heat 12: Brett Simpson, Jadson Andre, Patrick Gudauskas: Brett stepped out into the spotlight at Snapper. And with the way he’s developed his whole career, you let him see what it’s like to win heats, he’ll take advantage. His roll won’t stop at Bells. He’s got the potential for flair and his style has gotten really strong. A Bell next to his two $100,000 US Open checks, now that’s classic. —Travis Ferré