Matt Wilkinson stunned everyone--including himself--when he claimed his first CT victory ever on the Gold Coast. As well as he surfed at Snapper, the idea of him repeating the feat at the Rip Curl Pro seemed, well, ridiculous. But the lesson of this young season is clear: expect the unexpected. Against all odds, Wilko kept his roll going, earning his second straight CT victory at Bells, becoming the first goofyfooter to ring the bell since Mark Occhilupo in 1998.
Wilkinson now finds himself with a 10,800 point lead on the Jeep Leaderboard, which means the coveted yellow jersey will be his at least until Brazil.
It's possible Courtney Conlogue was the happiest person on Earth Friday when she achieved her longtime dream of winning Bells. It was especially sweet given Bells is where she suffered an injury two years ago that put her world title hopes on hold. While she clawed her way back into Title contention in 2015, her victory at the Rip Curl Pro is bringing her one large step closer. She's leaving Torquay with the yellow jersey.
Mick Fanning will be enjoying some much-anticipated time off after another very successful Bells campaign, where he reminded everyone why he's one of the best ever there. After losing to Jordy Smith in the semifinals he stayed on the beach greeting fans for more than 30 minutes before taking the long trip up the stairs, marking the end of one hell of a chapter in professional surfing.
Australian Sally Fitzgibbons had a shocker on the Gold Coast, getting bounced in Round Two. As expected, she came storming back at Bells. While she came short of winning she did upset reigning World Champ Carissa Moore, who was vying for her fourth Bells victory in a row.
After an injury plagued 2015 and a Round Two exit on the Gold Coast, Jordy Smith's return to form seemed somewhat questionable. But at Bells he put those fears to rest as he found plenty of room to move. Smith's heading for Western Australia tied for third in the rankings, and just getting warmed up.
Round Four on the women's side included one of the biggest battles of the entire event, with Stephanie Gilmore facing Malia Manuel in a high-performance duel at Winkipop. Stephanie was behind for most of the heat, but came back strong to clinch a close, but controversial victory. Debate over who won carried into the announcers booth, and we're not entirely sure things got settled.
Rookie Conner Coffin is off to a stellar start in 2016. After making it to Round Five on the Gold Coast, he did one better at Bells with a trip to the Quarterfinals, knocking out Joel Parkinson along the way. He now finds himself at No. 2 on the Jeep Leaderboard heading to Margaret River.
It's no surprise that Carissa Moore crushed her Quarterfinal heat. But her performance at Bells in those 30-odd minutes was next-level. Commentators, fans and most of all, the judges, were beside themselves over her incredible carves and total domination.
The 2016 Bells events also some some serious upsets in what amounted to be an upheaval of the Championship Tour's old guard. Among the veterans to go down was none other than Kelly Slater who, after an initial Round Two respite, was defeated in his very next heat.
After a rocky start at the first event, 2015 Rookie of the Year Italo Ferreira reminded everyone why he was in the World Title race at the end of last year. With some buzzer-beating wins in the earlier rounds, the Brazilian goofyfooter look poised for another CT final, but went down to would-be event champ Wilkinson in the Semifinals.
Wildcard Mason Ho did what he does best when he enters a Championship Tour event, he got weird. Though he went down in Round 5, the Hawaiian made his name known along the way. Including finding a clean in-out barrel at Bells Beach, considered by locals a rarity, and eliminating reigning World Champ Adriano de Souza in Round 3.
Tatiana Weston-Webb surfed her way to the Semifinals at Bells Beach, one of her better results in her short career as a member of the elite Tour. Following her rookie of the year performance last season, the Hawaiian is No. 4 in the world heading into the third stop at Margaret River. She may just find herself in the World Title conversation by the end of the season if she keeps it up.
Nat Young had an impressive run at Bells, an event he's made a Final appearance at before. The young goofyfoot attributed his success to the feeling he gets in the water located off Australia's scenic southern coastline as being similar to that of his native Santa Cruz.
Kolohe Andino was among the first of the Tour veterans to get knocked out early. The loss was likely all the tougher because he had finished as runner-up on the Gold Coast, just one week earlier.
Among the many David vs. Goliath moments, Conner Coffin eliminated an in-form Joel Parkinson in Round 3. The rookie's win over the three-time event winner and former World Champ was one of the bigger upsets of the Round, but Parko paddled in with his humor intact (see below).
Joel Parkinson went vertical in a unique way during Round Three. Of course, that was before his young grasshopper of an opponent scored an 8.17 and knocked him out of the competition.
Caio Ibelli was another rookie who proved that the landscape of the men's Tour is shifting. The young Brazilian battled the odds and the experience of Hawaiian John John Florence to win their Round 3 heat. When he got back to the beach, his fans were eager and waiting.
There have been just two events so far this season, but the brand-new Wilko is undeniably the star of the moment. In his Round 5 heat against Julian Wilson, the gregarious Aussie shared his sentiments in the water.
Unfortunately, there's a flip side to all the triumphs at Bells. While attacking a heavy closeout section, Jadson Andre injured his ankle. Remarkably, the Brazilian finished out his heat before having to be carried up the stairs to the medical tent.
The legendary Barton Lynch and Damien "Iceman" Hardman went head to head during the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Heritage Series. The two goofyfooted former World Champs and former Bells Beach winners tore up the lineup in one of the most exciting heats of the entire event. Ultimately, Lynch clinched another victory at the iconic righthander.