It should've been the heat of the day. The stars had aligned and it is quite uncommon to see 11x World Champion Kelly Slater and 3x World Champion Mick Fanning facing off in Round Three. But as fate would have it - and in majestic, twinkling Winkipop rights - we did.
Really, the numbers and statistics were far more fierce than the actual fight. In this Battle of the Titans, this Rumble on the Great Ocean Road, Slater and Fanning were currently tied at 9-9 for heat face-offs.
You want some more digits? Both Slater and Fanning each have four titles at Bells Beach to their names, tied for the most wins ever at this historic event. Slater has surfed this event 22 times, Mick has surfed it 18. Mick, however, has 66 heat wins at Bells, while Slater has 59.
But if anything can be said that truly set them apart, it's that Mick showed up with war paint on. Maybe it was white-tinted Vertra sunscreen…but you get the point.
The first half of the heat both competitors were feeling each other out. There was posturing, they were checking their reach, a few soft jabs but no haymakers.
In fact, most of the heat was fairly reactive, both legends making a few unusual mistakes, both looking moderately pensive, both surfing Winkipop at Level-6.
By the second half, while Slater remained (perhaps too) picky for that special set wave, Fanning started to heat up a touch, open up his shoulders on some wraps and drawing a few lines like the calligraphy teacher he's always been.
And then, just like that…it was over. Mick had sealed the deal 15 minutes prior to the final horn blaring without much push-back from Slater. An underwhelming affair if anything. Well, actually there is that one thing: Make that 67 heat wins at Bells for Mick…and 10-9 against Slater. Given the rough year he's had, however, he'll be glad to take it.