Easter Sunday at Bells Beach opened to clean conditions and familiar faces finishing on top, as defending event champ Mick Fanning (AUS) and 2007 Bells winner Taj Burrow (AUS) took the first two heats.
A real see-saw battle unfolded in Heat 2 when 2011 World Champ C.J. Hobgood (USA) took on 2013 Bells winner Adriano de Souza (BRA). With fewer than three minutes left, de Souza needed a 7.94 to take over the lead. He found a wave and powered his way to the inside, squeezing every last drop out of it. But in a puzzling move, he kept going -- all the way to the beach and up the endless stairs, seemingly in protest of his losing scores. But when the score for his final wave came in it was an 8.67, giving him the win.
"It's tough when you know you're surfing well but the score doesn't show up its so frustrating," de Souza told Rosy Hodge afterward. "I had so many questions in my mind. Maybe it was my board, maybe it's me, but right at the end I think it all came together and I made the scores, and I'm happy to make it through."
One the morning's most exciting heats saw Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Dusty Payne (HAW) facing off in the sudden-death round. As the two formidable competitors paddled out, Ronnie Blakey aptly called it a "mouth-watering matchup." That would prove to be an understatement.
After an initial mistake (and shudder from his dad on the deck), Toledo paddled up closer to the point, and found a wave under Payne's priority. The move paid off: He found a midrange score and took an early lead. Payne fought back, but Toledo was just getting warmed up. At the halfway point, he threw two air-reverses into an otherwise-mediocre wave that looked like it would die on the inside, all for a 9.17 that solidified his lead.
Payne the warrior was not going to go down without a fight, and he answered back with his massive hacks and similar follow-through to the double-up. The response earned him an 8.27. Next, he went for an air of his own, but couldn't land it and his loss seemed imminent. Topping it all off with two minutes left, Toledo found yet another ramp on a small wave and rode out to cheers from the crowd. He watched Payne's final attempt on shore, confident in his own win.
Along with the thrills, Easter at Bells also had its share of chills for the surfers who were eliminated. Glenn Hall (IRL) lost out to an in-form Kolohe Andino (USA), while Bede Durbidge (AUS) was shown the exit at the hands of Adam Melling (AUS) after a particularly close heat. Perhaps the biggest upset, however, was Tahitian Michel Bourez's loss to rookie Keanu Asing (HAW).
Rookies took centerstage again in Heat 10 when Matt Banting (AUS) and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) surfed against each other to stay in the competition. Banting held the lead through the first half of the heat, patiently pacing his speed in the tricky conditions. While Dantas brought his power to his forehand hacks, it was Banting's moment to shine.
Catch Banting and the rest of the surfers who advanced to Round 3 when the action continues. Watch Dawn Patrol at 7:00 a.m. local time at workdsurfleague.com or on the WSL app for the next call.