With more than 50 years of surfing history behind the famed Easter Classic in Torquay, the mystique associated with the Rip Curl Pro at Bells is inescapable. Getting that first glimpse of the famous headland while rounding the corner of Bells Beach Road is, for any pro, enough to give them chills. This sacred surfing stadium has played host to some of the most pivotal moments in surfing history. This year will be no different as Mick Fanning dons the Rip Curl Pro jersey for the 19th and final time. Naturally, Mick tops our list of those to keep your eyes on this year, but there are a variety of other threats out there and we've boiled them down here.
White Lightning made his initial strike here back in 2001, making history by winning the event as a wildcard. In the time since he's racked up three more wins, tying with Kelly Slater and Mark Richards for the most ever. All told, Fanning has made six Final appearances at Bells, and while new threats have certainly emerged over his 18 years of competing here, his heat win percentage is 70%, which still tops the field. Truth be told, his chances here are far better than they were up at Snapper, so yes, the storybook ending is quite possible.
Adriano de Souza
Despite the fact that Adriano is a former winner, and a two-time finalist, he's continually entering this event as an unsung threat. Fact is, he's among the most dangerous in the pack. Four out of the past five years De Souza has advanced to the Quarterfinals or beyond. His speed and power are a perfect fit for the Bells Bowl, and the list of victims he's piled up over his 12 appearances here include every top heavyweight in the biz. With all eyes on Mick and this year's flashy new class of rookies you can bet he'll be flying under the radar again...but with a win rate of 66% over the past five years alone -- he shouldn't be.
After several years of getting close, Jordy Smith finally got his hands on the Bells trophy in 2017, validating him as one of the best at this break. While he's got ten appearances under his belt now his numbers over the last five show he's improving; his win rate has climbed from 65% to 68%, which is the second highest in the field of this year's competitors. Bells gives the big man plenty of room to move and his abundant shows of force are quite convincing. He's coming in with a little extra motivation, too, after a lackluster start at Snapper.
The respect for Frederico Morais' surfing has risen dramatically since this time last year, when he sent his first warning shot to the rest of the field with his fifth-place finish at Bells. The Portuguese powerhouse is right at home in big chilly righthanders, and his speedy swoops and meaty hacks all pack some punch. Morais is surfing with more confidence than ever, and Bells is just the place where his style of surfing will stand out. In fact, all three of his best results in 2017 came at pointbreaks: Bells, J-Bay, Trestles, so keep that in mind for the rest of the season.
The California rookie entered the Quiksilver Pro as the media's darling, and yet as hyped as he was he still shattered all expectations. With legends like Fanning and Slater backing away from the stage it's nice to see the future is still filled with excitement. At Bells we'll get an even better look at Colapinto's power game, which is incredibly authoritative for a 19-year-old. But he's got all the pop you could ask for, too. While he's playing the role of innocent young rookie well, don't be fooled: Colapinto is the son of a teacher, and his coach Jake Paterson has nicknamed him the "sponge" for good reason. He's far more aware of what's going on than he leads on, and the thing he's most aware of now is he's got nothing to lose.