With talk of a good swell forecast for the Rip Curl Pro at Bells, it was a little surprising that event organizers opted to run the round one in small, challenging conditions at Rincon, the inside reef at Bells.
Regardless of the long lulls and soft, mushy surf, the ASP frontrunners of Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson put on a display of masterful technique and control, easily winning their respective heats and proving that they are indeed the ones to beat.
Slater noted that "he wanted to be prepared" after his win on the Gold Coast. And prepared he looked, riding a shorter and wider five-fin glider that enabled him to fly all over the flat-faced waves, creating speed at will and laying down fast rail carves. He finished off the heat with an impressive air 360 on his last wave which brought his heat total to 18.03.
"I switched my equipment back to the Weirdo Ripper which I rode in the early rounds on the Gold Coast and it seemed to work really well in those slopey Rincon waves," said Slater in his post-heat media scrum. "I drifted in towards the end of the heat and that wave (9.70) wasn't very big, but it looked like it was going to run a bit better and it just allowed for a good amount of turns."
Meanwhile, a handful of the lower seeds also put on a great performance. Brazlian William Cardoza, who is surfing in the contest thanks to an injury wildcard, threw down the upset of the day has he made short work of Taj Burrow, who appeared to be very much out of rhythm. The mushy rights at Rincon suited fellow countryman Felipe Toledo perfectly. Toledo launched an unrelenting display of progressive surfing, uncorking an air 360 and a kerrupt flip on the same wave, which in turn earned him a victory over Michel Bourez and Bede Durbidge.
Then it was the Americans turn to get into the act. In the space of less than five minutes Nat Young came from behind against Jeremy Flores, posting two eight-point rides to steal a win. The round finished with fellow Californian Kolohe Andino putting on a great all around performance, taking out an in-form Jordy Smith and CJ Hobgood in the process. Andino started the heat with a 9.57, launching a huge full rotation air 360 on his first wave and never looked back. He's been paying dues and losing close heats since he qualified for the world tour and it's good to see him get his first round one win since qualifying.
"It's a weird dynamic on this tour as they're all your favorite surfers and you want to beat them," Andino said afterwards. "Jordy is one of my favorite surfers and CJ is so deadly. I'm having fun though. I feel like my surfing has improved a lot from last year. Hopefully we get good waves for the rest of the event."
This early success will definitely serve as a confidence booster for Andino and the other youngsters as they move forward in the event, but the big question still looms: "Do they have what it takes to take down one of the title contenders?" Stay tuned, there's surf on the way and this thing's going to get interesting.
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 13.60, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.33, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 11.17
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.64, Kai Otton (AUS) 14.43, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.83
Heat 3: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 15.06, Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.33, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 8.16
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.83, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.34, Oney Anwar (IDN) 7.60
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.20, Brett Simpson (USA) 10.20, Jack Perry (AUS) 8.87
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.03, Adam Melling (AUS) 15.50, Jacob Willcox (AUS) 10.17
Heat 7: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 16.33, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.60, Tiago Pires (PRT) 11.10
Heat 8: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.06, Dusty Payne (HAW) 14.20, Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.87
Heat 9: Nat Young (USA) 16.43, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.90, Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.20
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.47, Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.67, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.23
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 17.26, Glenn Hall (IRL) 13.77, Owen Wright (AUS) 13.73
Heat 12: Kolohe Andino (USA) 17.14, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.90, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.76