The 2018 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Explained Over a Coffee

28 Mar 2018 2 Share

Mike Jennings

Senior Writer

Friends! Best friends! The four-time Bells Champ. The World Champ. The Defending Bells Champ. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Friends! Best friends! The four-time Bells Champ. The World Champ. The Defending Bells Champ. Photo: WSL/Cestari

COASTALWATCH | WSL

As we head into the Easter long weekend, event no.2 of the WSL Championship Tour is getting under way in the cold, blustery Australian state of Victoria. The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach! As I got rugged up at 7am and headed for the door, I stopped myself, grabbed a coffee, and explained to the dumber parts of my brain exactly what was going down, so I could get myself up to speed:

Woah, hold on, how come you’re in a snow jacket and scarf and beanie and gloves with a giant smile on your face?

BELLS IS ON THIS WEEK!

Bells?

BELLS!

It’s sunny outside, I don’t understand. What are you yelling?

BELLS!

WHAT IS BELLS?!

Okay, sorry. It’s just exciting is all. Bells is the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, the second Championship Tour event of the year out of a total 11. And it’s the longest running event in surfing history, beginning back in the early 60s. They called it the Easter Rally around then.

So why are you so excited?

Bells is the classic. There’s a romance to it that is unparalleled by other surfing events. Where do you start? The cold mornings in the carpark, everyone holding coffees as they check the view over the headland. The history of the event, Simon Anderson in 81, MP going back to back to back in his three years of unbeaten supremacy in the early 70s. Occy’s comeback! The old school rail first approach to the wave. And, of course, the best trophy in surfing. It’s a really cool and special thing.

Sick! So the wave must be pretty good too then?

Nah, not really.

What?

Yeah it can be a bit of a mushburger.

Yet it’s the best event?

Some things in surfing are bigger and better than being compared to perfect waves in tropical green water. It's not about attractive, groundbreaking modern surfing, or about being accessable and entertaining to a large and engaged audience. That’d be ludicrous. Ha. 

Are there other waves they can move it to?

Yeah, most Rip Curl Pros usually see at least one day moved to Winkipop, which is a much better, more high performance ruler edged kind of a reef-break/point-break thing. It breaks around the headland at the other end of the beach. If the forecast is really bad, they can move to a more exposed spot called Johanna a two hour drive down the coast. If it goes there, the event has been a bad one. The one other option is waaaay on the other side of Melbourne, on Victoria’s east coast, at Phillip Island and a beach break there called Woolamai. It’s only finished there once, back in 2005, and it’s hard to picture it ever going there again.

I’m seeing Mick Fanning in the paper and the news a lot.

Yep. Mick Fanning is retiring and this is his last event. So this Easter is going to be a real celebration week. The Festival of Mick some are calling it. Mick, before winning three World Titles, won his first event down at Bells when he was entered in the event as a 19 year old wildcard. He also shares the record for most Bells wins with Mark Richards and Kelly Slater, all having won it four times. And, obviously, it’s his career-sponsor Rip Curl’s blue ribbon event

I heard somewhere that someone had won it ten times?

Oh, shit, you’re right. Gail Cooper has won it ten times, back in the 60s and 70s. She has the record.

So who’s going to win in 2018?

The top dogs are of course Mick – having won it four times – and Parko, who’s won it three times, and then Jordy finally won the thing last year after being considered the best surfer out there over the past half-decade. Wilko’s leading the goofy charge after winning it in 2016. And John John Florence could do anything, having made the semis twice, but also finished 13th twice too. So who knows what he’ll bring to the bowl this year?

Traditionally, it’s the guys who can do big, long, beautiful arching turns with style that do well at Bells. So watch out for guys like Zeke Lau, Frederico Morais, Conner Coffin and past winner Adriano DeSouza. And don’t be surprised if Filipe Toledo destroys everyone. He’s looking particularly hot right now.

On the women’s side, Carissa Moore has to be the favourite after Courtney Conlogue, the defending back to back champ, has been ruled out of the event due to injury. Carissa Moore won it three times in a row before Conlogue took over. Alongside Steph, Carissa shares the record amongst current CT surfers for most Bells wins. Sally Fitzgibbons is also very good there, having won it twice, though that was way back in 2012. Lakey Peterson looks super dangerous after winning the Roxy Pro too, and she spends a lot of time at Bells as she’s engaged to a fella that lives down the street. Tyler Wright, strangely, has never won the hallowed trophy.

Ha, just say the whole field then. Give me one prediction.

Okay. Toledo will win the men. Lakey will win the women.

What about Julian Wilson, he’s world no.1?

Julian is brilliant at Bells in flashes, but his last three events there have been a 13th, a ninth and a 13th. He did make the semis once, but that was back in 2014 on a finals day held at Winkipop. Hopefully he can carry his form from the Quiksilver Pro through to this event and correct that though. Consistency is the only thing standing in the way of a Julian Wilson World Title. Consistency is his no.1 enemy. Consistency and bears.

Bears?

Ignore that.

So, when does it start?

Today (Wednesday, March 28) and finishes up April 8, which is next Sunday.

Oh shit, sorry to hold you up, you better get going.

Ah, nah, I just got the notification: It’s not on today. Who knows when it will be on.

Anything else significant I should know about?

Yeah, one thing. There was this fantastic journalist, Michael Gordon, who was the editor of The Age for a long period. He wrote this brilliant book on the history of Bells called Bells: the beach, the surfers, the contest. Sadly, Gordon passed away this year. It’d be nice that amongst the festival of Mick going down this week, that he gets honoured in some way too. Somewhat fittingly, a shot of Mick Fanning was on the cover of that book.

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