Sean Doherty On: Day 3 Rip Curl Pro, History & A Cliff

27 Mar 2016 1

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Connor Coffin showing why he's here, Photo by WSL

Connor Coffin showing why he's here, Photo by WSL

History & A Cliff

Day 3 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

Back in 1981, Terry Richardson took a drop at Bells that didn’t end. It was the biggest wave ridden on the biggest day surfed at Bells, and the unique bathymetry of the Bells reef turned it into a giant, moving, stationary wave. By the time he’d taken the drop he’d travelled the length of the bay at Bells. Turning wasn’t an option.

Richo is back at Bells for the first time in decades, and walked straight back in time, his arrival coinciding with the arrival of the biggest day the Easter contest has seen in years. It wasn’t quite ’81, but it was a muscular 10-foot, and every guy who surfed today will be leaking salt water in their sleep tonight.

While the waves hadn’t changed the show had. Richo, who’s worked in the mines ever since giving up his surfing career in the early ‘80s, couldn’t believe the money being splashed around the place. Bells was held in a tent with the judges in a double-decker bus last time he was here. But the return of guys like Richo, guys like Simon Anderson and Barton Lynch and Tom Carroll and Mike Ho gives the contest something beyond the cutbacks. As Taj Burrow said after his heat today when asked what made Bells special, “There’s the history… and there’s a cliff.”

Uncle Mike was up early, perched in a roped-off section of the Bells walkways, out of sight, watching his son Mason half a mile out to sea in the Bells Bowl through a pair of binoculars. That’s how far out he was, the swell having spiked overnight and continuing to build. Uncle Mike couldn’t watch. With Jeremy Flores – Mason’s opponent – needing only a five, Uncle Mike’s blood pressure was rising quick. He put the binoculars down and walked away. While Mase is totally unaffected by the whole thing, Uncle Mike gets chewed up by it. “I can’t do this… I can’t watch Jeremy get his five. Fark… I’m outta here, brah!”

Jeremy never got the five.

SEE ALSO: Day 2 Rip Curl Pro, Old Bones Road

Kelly Slater's early round revival, Photo by WSL

Kelly Slater's early round revival, Photo by WSL

Kelly paddled out soon after against a kid with purple hair from Guadeloupe. I don’t think 20 years ago he’d have imagined his future looking like this. Or maybe he would’ve. The Champ was unconvincing in the seasick seascape but surfed with hustle, even launching into a kamikaze floater next to the Winkipop Button, the wave devouring him before vomiting him skyward.

Man, that crazy body of water really brought the contest to life today. The end section punctuated some oceanic snowboarding.

The big, rolling lummox of a wave would slowly work towards the end of the bay, where it met all the water rushing back out to sea next to the Button. After a dozen cutbacks, the surfer would see this grotesque body of water approaching with the full realisation that, shit, they would need to put a turn in here somewhere. It’s a dangerous body of water as your correspondent found out the hard way last year. It ate people alive all day, but that section next to the Button would prove crucial.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things I Learned Surfing On Easter Sunday

The final heat of the day was a rematch of the world-title-deciding semi-final at Pipeline last year, Mason Ho versus Adriano De Souza. You know how that one ended, but this time around was a little less predictable.

Adriano, who I’ve only ever seen wearing a black tracksuit at Bells, was dressed in jeans and a scarf, having clearly undergone a style makeover as part of his world champion induction, but under the Kashmir he was still the same resourceful streetfighter who had ground out a title last year. He’s gnarly at Bells, and the uglier it gets out there the better he looks, so with the ocean still looking like an Aivazovsky painting he should have walked through the heat with Mason.

Thing was, Mason has surfed nothing but big, crazy ocean for two months. He described to me in January how he’d almost been cut in half by a Waimea lip. He then backspun down a 30-footer at the Eddie. And even in the morning freesurf he’d been rolled over by a huge white avalanche that left him seeing stars. “Brah, I just took one and got this big flash. Seeing all sorts of crazy shit.”

So were you surprised when Mason won? Mason wasn’t. “I never lose. I sometimes just run out of time.”

SEE ALL TODAY'S RESULTS HERE


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