It’s got its detractors, but the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach remains one of the tour’s most formidable tests of mettle and purist surfing — a fact that’s been reinforced over the past three events actually held in the Bells Bowl. From 2007-2009 (only a small part of the 2010 contest ran at Bells), only twice have goofy-footers progressed to the semifinal stage, and never past it. Those who’ve made finals here (Taj beat Andy in ’07, Kelly beat Bede in ’08, and Parko beat wildcard Adam Robertson in ’09) have delivered consistent, powerful and stylish moves to the wave face.
In the lead-up to the event, we consulted a range of pundits to learn what’s in store this year.
Coastalwatch’s Ben Macartney expects the event to finish in good to epic conditions at the Bells Bowl, likely within the first half of the waiting period.
Rotating head judge Pritamo Ahrendt says that “traditional surfing — full rail carves, big bottom turns, swooping cutbacks and big floaters” best serve surfers at Bells, adding that the crescendo move on the inside closeout section is a good way to turn a good score into a great score. He agrees that the Bells Bowl isn’t suited to progressive surfing, though says that if anyone can bring some new school sizzle to the canvas, they can expect huge rewards. Points are deducted for “wasting sections with set up turns,” i.e. a failure to “combine of major maneuvers.” If heats are run in the more high-performance Winkipop arena, the focus will be on surfers’ ability to showcase their entire repertoire and do so creatively.
This year’s event wildcard and 2009 Rip Curl Pro runner up Adam Robertson is adamant that you won’t do well here unless you’ve put in some time in the Bowl.
“You need a good week to prepare for the event,” he says. “You get to know that inside bit. But it’s so fat, it’s hard to pick what line to take.”
Robbo revealed a prized piece of advice when he told SURFING that he looks for the deeper waves that “kinda skim across the rocks” for the most scoring potential. He points to Slater for an example of how to surf here.
“He fades it out really good. Everybody else seems to do more of a cutback thing, and [Kelly] is just straight up and down. That’s the key out there. Parko and Fanning are amazing too,” Robbo adds.
The Brazilians — Alejo, Adriano, Raoni, Heitor, Gabriel Medina and Jadson — will struggle, he predicts, unless they can match the steeze and power game of the tour’s more conventional surfers. For an outsider, he suggests Matt Wilkinson, whose violent, vertical backhand reaches a middle ground between power and progressive surfing. Should the Bells Bowl get a bit of a crumble on the lip, as it does when the onshore comes up (which often happens during the event), watch for Wilko’s backside fin-waft to rain spray and points.
With just one heat win to his name at Bells, Pat Gudauskas is hardly an authority on good surfing here — but he’s been hitting up the right guy for advice.
“The best tip I got was from Kelly,” says Pat. “He told me as long as you stay in the middle of the wave, you’re okay. I was tripping out on this thing like, ‘Whoa, there’s no lip,’ so you’ve just gotta stay in the middle.”
Pat G. spent the past week at Bells warming up and observes that surfing well here is all about “drawn out, real arcy lines,” and that the wave favors “bigger guys who are about big turns.” Both Pat and Robbo agree that the history of poor showings by the goofy-footers at Bells is likely to continue. —Jed Smith
Below are results from Round 1 at Bells. For heats on demand and live coverage when Round 2 gets underway, visit live.ripcurl.com.
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 13.23, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.26, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 7.37
Heat 2: Adam Melling (AUS) 14.50, Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.30, Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.00
Heat 3: Heitor Alves (BRA) 14.36, Bobby Martinez (USA) 14.14, Owen Wright (AUS) 10.60
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.60, Tiago Pires (PRT) 11.07, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 9.27
Heat 5: Stu Kennedy (AUS) 11.70, Dusty Payne (HAW) 10.50, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 9.00
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.00, Kai Otton (AUS) 10.13, Adam Robertson (AUS) 8.53
Heat 7: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.17, Cory Lopez (USA) 5.83, Taylor Knox (USA) 4.67
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.60, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 10.20, Gabe Kling (USA) 3.50
Heat 9: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.60, Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.23, Daniel Ross (AUS) 11.07
Heat 10: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.74, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.44, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 8.17
Heat 11: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.60, Chris Davidson (AUS) 10.83, Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.83
Heat 12: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 13.40, Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.43, Brett Simpson (USA) 8.93
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Adam Robertson (AUS)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Bobby Martinez (USA)
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 5: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 6: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 7: Brett Simpson (USA) vs. Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 8: Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Daniel Ross (AUS)
Heat 9: Chris Davidson (AUS) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 10: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 11: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 12: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
RIP CURL WOMEN’S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 12.93, Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 8.70, Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 8.66
Heat 2: Silvana Lima (BRA) 14.94, Laura Enever (AUS) 8.84, Melanie Bartels (HAW) 7.54
Heat 3: Pauline Ado (HAW) 14.60, Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.44, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.63
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.30, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 9.00, Bethany Hamilton (HAW) 6.50
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.10, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 12.83 Paige Hareb (NZL) 7.47
Heat 6: Coco Ho (HAW) 12.90, Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.00, Pauline Ado (FRA) 6.37