Pumping 3-to-5-foot swell pushed through Rincon and the Bells Bowl to greet the organizers of the Rip Curl Pro Wednesday morning. There was not a hint of hesitation in sending out the men's remaining three heats of Round 1 and running straight into Round 2.
To hear the answer to Tuesday's question about Matty Wilkinson's choice of equipment, we can tell you that he didn't choose to ride a channel bottom board today.
"I used to ride channel bottoms out here when I was competing as a grom and I tried a few out the other day, but I was getting a bit caught in the lip so (laughing) maybe I'm a bit old now," he joked after winning his heat.
When asked about the unusual question-mark graphics all over his wetsuit and board he replied, "It's The Riddler, the villain in the Batman movie. I just thought it would be cool to be a villain and the suit looks cool. It also has sexual connotations, so it's pretty funny all around."
Wilkinson's outfit was one of the lighter sides to today's action which ranged from a huge dummy spit (tantrum) by Michel Bourez after losing to Fred Patacchia, Julian Wilson messing up his tactical game and losing to Kai Otten, and the heat where the youngest guy on tour, Gabriel Medina, 18, came up against the oldest, Taylor Knox, 40. The action in that heat was aerial moves vs. power turns in clean 5-foot Bells Beach waves.
In years past, nobody would have considered that heats at Bells Beach would be won by surfers going to the air, especially with the long walls just waiting for the power hacks and lip bashes. Today that changed with Medina defeating Knox, the quintesential power surfer. Medina has been here as a contest wildcard, but today was the first time he'd actually won a heat in two years of trying. He arrived in Torquay early, trying to sort out the tricky waves at Bells.
"I'm just stoked to make my first heat here at Bells. Maybe I'll make a few more now," he joked after defeating Knox, "I got here like two weeks ago and I've been training a lot, trying a lot of new boards and now all I want to do is go out there and do my job."
For the past few days Medina and his entourage have arrived on the beach with four or five multi-colored boards and it seemed he was never quite sure which board to take out.
"I do have some good boards," he said, "I just have to pick one and go out there and surf, (laughing) I pick the bright color and have fun."
Medina won by going to the air and fellow tour rookie Yadin Nichol used the same strategy with a front side air-reverse to win his heat over Brazil's Alejo Muniz. "I hadn't planned to pull an air reverse but the section just popped up in front of me and I thought, 'Why not?' and it worked," Nicol said.
The wave scored 9.87 points, the highest single-wave score of the day and he was happy to get the heat out of the way.
"I wanted to get through yesterday so bad," he continued. "I was so bummed when I lost, especially considering the conditions my heat was held in. I felt so rattled losing yesterday, so to get the scores I got today and advance when it was pumping like it is out there makes it worthwhile."
Taj Burrow came into the Rip Curl Pro as the world No. 1 and didn't expect to find himself in the Round 2 losers round.
"Round 2 is the round you don't want to be in," he said after defeating contest wildcard Davey Cathels, "I tried to start the heat with a bang and get it done. I like to get my wave count up early so it was good to get two keepers straight off the bat. I'm not a three-man heat type of guy either, I'd rather be sitting out there with priority, so I can sort of control the heat or the pace. All I can say is I was totally out of sync yesterday."
Burrow had two good scores up early in the heat and then started going to the air, trying to add a higher score to his total. He nailed a blow tail air-reverse mid heat but it didn't go into this two-wave total.
"I kind of snowball my confidence," he explained. "I try to catch a couple of keepers and then go for things like that air reverse but after a few more heats here I'll be doing turns like that first wave."
The buzz around the contest site is that they'll be scoring waves for the next few days. It's been unseasonably warm with pumping surf but that is set to change with a typical cold front blowing in by the weekend, bringing even more surf with it. Will the power guys get back into rhythm or will air moves be the feature of the 51st running of the Bells Beach event?REMAININING RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 10: Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.40, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.54, Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.97
Heat 11: John John Florence (HAW) 16.26, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 13.57, Tiago Pires (PRT) 11.20
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 10.67, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 9.53, Heitor Alves (BRA) 6.66
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 17.53 def. Davey Cathels (AUS) 11.17
Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 16.90 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.10
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.66 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 9.03
Heat 4: Josh Kerr (AUS) 16.10 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 15.30
Heat 5: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.59 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.34
Heat 6: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 17.70 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.16
Heat 7: Jadson Andre (BRA) 16.93 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 13.96
Heat 8: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.60 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.00
Heat 9: Tiago Pires (PRT) 14.93 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.30
Heat 10: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.77 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 11.67
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 16.33 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.50
Heat 12: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 14.77 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 12.83
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 4: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 5: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Nic Muscroft (AUS)
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
Heat 10: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 11: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 12: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
*Editor's Note: Several prominent surf photogaphers had their equipment stolen from the press tent at Bells Beach. Anyone with information on the robbery is encouraged to contact the authorities in Victoria.