The first half of opening day at Bells was marked by a mix of come-from-behind wins and total domination.
Taj Burrow (AUS), who rang the prestigious bell in 2007 as event winner, caught the first wave of the contest. He got hung up as the wave died out, and it proved to be a metaphor for the rest of his heat. The 30-minute showdown was largely a battle between Tour rookie Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) and Tour vet Jeremy Flores. Dantas took an early lead, but Flores had caught up by the second half, claiming the lead and heat win.
Brazilian Adriano de Souza grabbed hold of the lead in Heat 2 and seemed confident with his scoreline. Brett Simpson (USA) and Kai Otton (AUS) made valiant efforts, but lagged behind for most of the three-man faceoff. In the late stages, though, Simpson unleashed and scored a 7.83 to steal the direct advance to Round 3 from De Souza.
After two heats with open playing fields, Kelly Slater (USA) paddled out and unequivocally led his heat from start to finish, wrapping things up with the highest heat total of the day with 16.67. John John Florence (HAW) followed suit, making the most of small-scale surf with signature, finishing flourishes: air-reverse after air-reverse.
"I watched a couple of heats before to try and judge which waves were the best ones," said Slater. "I didn't catch my wave until 10 minutes but it was a pretty good wave and then I was in sync for the good ones."
Heat 5 was among the biggest cliffhangers of the Round, pitting wildcard Mason Ho (brother of Women's CT surfer Coco Ho) against fellow Hawaiian Freddy Patacchia Jr. and defending event champ Mick Fanning (AUS). Ho lagged behind his more seasoned opponents until halfway through, when he went for broke with a massive punt -- and rode out cleanly. The risk paid off with an 8.00 that sent him from last place to second. His elders put up a good fight, and Fanning came close to taking the win with a final wave that saw him break out an alley-oop. But even his Hail Mary wasn't enough. He lost by just a fraction of a point, and will be forced to surf in Round 2.
Waning conditions led the commissioner to call competition off after seven heats. Watch Dawn Patrol at 8:00 a.m. local for the next official call on the WSL homepage or the WSL app.