Take a quick glance at the history of Bells Beach champions and you'll find the venerable list could easily be surfing's one and only Hall of Fame. In the past 33 years alone, 75 percent of Rip Curl Pro winners at Bells have held world titles, or were about to.
Yet in this modern age of blow tails and aerial rotations, Bells' slopey face has been falling out of favor with some of today's elite tour stars. Their beef is it's not conducive to today's new brand of acrobatic surfing, which is half true. Aerials weren't on the menu Sunday with Bells being 8-to-10 feet and unruly. But Matty Wilkinson spent the entire week chucking his tail.
And what the naysayers forget is that ripping these big chunky faces of Southern Ocean involves a mastery of surfing's revered essentials: speed, power, and flow; none of which will ever go out of style. If you need proof just go back and watch 30-year-old clips of Curren and Occy clashing in the Bells Bowl.
"I think every goofyfooter, still, before you come down here, you watch a bunch of clips of Occy...he'd come off the bottom so hard and rip into the top turn like nobody's ever done. I tried my best to mimic that, but I've got some kind of different turns in my surfing. What I lack in the big power-wraps off the top I feel like I can make up for getting the fins free."
On Sunday Wilkinson became the first goofyfooter since Occy in 1998 to win at Bells. Occy, by the way, won his first world title the very next year. Wilko mightn't need to wait that long. With his second straight win this year he's taken a commanding 10800 point lead over the competition, guaranteeing that he'll be wearing the yellow jersey on the way to Brazil in May.
"I don't know what's going on," he told Ross Williams afterward, trying to explain his miraculous breakout. His best year-end finish to date has been 18th. Traditionally by year's-end, he's just trying to requalify. Now he's seriously thinking about steps he can take to secure a world title.
In truth, Wilko's coach Glenn "Micro" Hall has him focusing on small improvements in about 10 different areas of his surfing. "If I can improve 10 percent in each of those 10 areas, that'll be 100 percent improvement," Wilko explained.
He's shattered that goal.
Before Wilkinson beat Jordy Smith in the final -- his first time ever beating Smith --Smith beat Mick Fanning, the most successful Bells surfer in history, during his semifinal.
Fanning looked like he was headed for his fifth Bells crown early in the morning, dismantling rookies Davey Cathels and Conner Coffin by weaving through giant moguls and lacerating the big Bells' walls.
After he lost to Smith in the semifinal Mick stayed on the beach for 30 minutes greeting fans, then took his final walk up Bells' legendary stairs to begin his long-awaited vacation from the tour. Note: he's walking away ranked 5th in the world.
For Jordy Smith, a runner-up finish will be a nice confidence booster after his lengthy recovery from injury in 2015. Jordy is heading to Margaret River ranked No. 3 in the world, and still getting warmed up.
Rookie Conner Coffin is headed to West Oz ranked No. 2 in the world, having already lived up to all the expectations. Still, aside from Wilkinson, his remarkable rocket up the ratings is one of the biggest surprises of the young season. And it should be noted, he's doing it on the strength of his fundamentals.
Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour Rankings after Rip Curl Pro
1. Matt Wilkinson 20000
2. Conner Coffin 9200
3. Jordy Smith 8500
4. Kolohe Andino 8500
5. Mick Fanning 8250
5. Italo Ferreira 8250
5. Stu Kennedy 8250
8. Caio Ibelli 8000
9. Filipe Toleo 7000
10. Adriano de Souza 6950
10. Nat Young 6960
10. Joel Parkinson 6960
10. John Florence 6960
10. Wiggolly Dantas 6960
10. Adrian Buchan 6960
10. Michel Bourez 6960