All Photos: Corey Wilson
Apologies for the click-bait headline. But it’s true — Mick Fanning did win the 2015 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach today. Are you surprised? Shocked? Stunned? Bewildered, befuddled, enthralled? Or just plain tired?
Let’s face it. Today — and the rest of Rip Curl Pro — did not exhibit the best surfing you’ve ever seen. It did not break the internet, nor did it mildly damage it. The waves were bad and the surfing tried its very hardest to be good, to meet the conditions in the middle and turn this into an average event. I’d say it succeeded at that. The surfing was good. For Bells.
For Bells. What does that even mean? It means that runner-up Adriano de Souza did eleven turns on one wave today. It means that Mick got a 9.43 for four turns — the same turns that he’s been doing since Fanning The Fire was the hottest ticket in town back in ’02. Frankly, it means the surfing was antiquated. This was the 54th year of competition at Bells Beach. So the event has been around in some way, shape or form since 1961. In 1961, Bob Dylan was still one year away from putting out his first album. Bob Dylan’s music is very old. This contest is even older.
And a lot changes in 54 years. More than anything, the boredom that is Bells is a generational issue. The rest of the world has evolved while Bells has stayed just the same. Much like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed And Confused, spare a few good one-liners.
These days, everything is at everyone’s fingertips — what are you reading this on? According to our analytics, there’s more than a 50% chance you’re on a device that lives in your pocket. And because you have that pretty little computer riding your thigh, there are very few stones that must remain forever unturned and very few things that forever remain unseen. And because every stone is turned and everything is seen, your entertainment demands are rather fucking high. Prestige — even 54 years of it — doesn’t cut it anymore. You care about the most entertaining thing right now and when that’s over you care solely about the next thing, mostly forgetting about the past in the process. A few years ago, Bob Dylan was detained and brought into a police station in Red Bank, New Jersey after he was found roaming around a sketchy neighborhood peering into houses. The police officer was 24 years old at the time of the arrest and had no idea who the old, stubble-faced man was. Maybe that’s how it feels, Bobby.
So where to from here? The way I see it, there are two routes.
Option A: Next year, the WSL and Rip Curl move this event to Lakey Peak.
Option B: We learn to be better people.
So far, I’ve written over 450 words that basically summarize how bad Bells is for modern surfing. I am a HUGE part of this problem. I haven’t checked in with Vegas lately, but I’d suppose the odds for this contest packing up and heading to Sumbawa in 2016 aren’t astronomically high. Bells isn’t going anywhere. And, bless its vanilla soul, the wave ain’t going to change. So we just need to learn how to love it.
Bobby Martinez, I hope you’re not reading this but maybe it’s best to think about the World Championship Tour as a game of mini-golf. Each hole offers something different. Each demands a different technique in order to be successful. Sure, Lowers and France and Tahiti seem like the best yardsticks to measure modern surfing. But Bells presents its own challenge, and we need to appreciate that challenge and the way it factors into the year as a whole. We need appreciate Mick’s surfing on his way to victory in the same way we’ll appreciate John’s road to the podium at Teahupo’o (calling it now). Mick’s meticulosity was exactly what Bells had ordered. That’s important and that’s worth celebrating. Today, tomorrow and for the rest of the 2015 tour.
Or, if nothing else, at least I just got you to read “each hole offers something different” with a straight face. —Brendan Buckley