Friday morning -- the third day of the event window for the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach -- the WSL Commissioners decided to make a last-minute move to Winkipop for the opening rounds of the contest. Although just a short distance down the way, Winki is vastly different from the Bells Bowl -- requiring larger boards in order to bank on the low, drawn-out bottom turns. As a result, athletes scrambled to update their boards and strategies.
"We're on at Winkipop this morning with some really nice racy walls on offer for the surfers," said head judge Pritamo Ahrendt. "The Judging Panel will continue the utilization of the scale as we did at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, rewarding top-ended scores for execution of major turn combinations as well as to surfers able to display a high-level point of difference in their surfing. Point of difference includes superior speed and power throughout maneuvers and the ability to execute creative lines effectively. Innovation and progression remain very applicable components to high-end scoring."
All of that change, however, didn't seem to shake Carissa Moore. The Hawaiian surfed Round 1, Heat 1 with a newfound determination, sending both Sage Erickson and Bronte Macaulay into Round 2.
"It's such a beautiful morning," said Moore. "There's long beautiful walls coming through. I was really surprised that they made the move here. I've never surfed in a heat at Winki so it was a first for me but with conditions like this I really enjoyed it."
Moore had a tough time on the 2017 Championship Tour, for her standards. She had a series of fifth-place finishes during the first half of the season and didn't get a win until the second-to-last event -- at the Roxy Pro France. The usually confident 25-year-old looked like she was lacking motivation. But, towards the end of the year Moore started to regain traction and after a few months off (in which she married her long-time boyfriend), she's surfing like her old self again.
She's also dominated at Bells, winning the event three times already over the span of her career. During her first heat at Winki, she scored a 14.50 heat total, outrunning her other heat competitors by 5.10.
"It's a tricky wave because there are different sections to it," Moore continued. "Some are really fast but you're looking for a wave that has a nice pace to it. I think it's all about finding that pace and opening up when you can. I just love Bells in general. It feels like home here and I have a lot of friends here. I'm comfortable."