If the points, the prize money and the prestige weren't enough to fight for at the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach, Carissa Moore and Stephanie Gilmore also have the chance to make history. If either takes the event title, they will equal Lisa Andersen's record of four Rip Curl Pro wins and have a legitimate claim to be considered one of the best Bells surfers ever.
Moore's and Gilmore's three victories were achieved in very different ways. Gilmore claimed her last title 2010, after back-to-back wins in 2007 and 2008. If that last win seems like a long time ago, and it was, she has also been a beaten finalist twice since then. It is rare that Gilmore isn't in the mix at Easter.
That's partly because her knowledge of the Bells Bowl is the most detailed of all the surfers in the event. By the time she won her first bell as a 19-year-old rookie, she had already logged serious time at the break. Not only was Bells a regular destination on the Australian Junior circuit, but she often stayed in Torquay, as her major sponsors have always been located there. So after she locked in her third Rip Curl Pro win in 2010, it seemed a simple matter of when, not if, she would overtake Andersen's record of four wins.
Two defeats, however, by archrivals Sally Fitzgibbons and Carissa Moore, have stalled Gilmore on three wins. "We have had a great battle for the World Title the last few years and every single heat with her is hard," Gilmore said after the 2015 defeat. "I love this event, I love coming down here, rugging up and trying to ring the bell."
Gilmore's long, drawn-out lines and deep rail work will always look good at the Bells Bowl. She also looks rejuvenated, in form and focused in 2017. Her win at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast and Jeep Leader's yellow competitor's jersey (reserved for the top surfer on Tour) have shown that Gilmore's back in the mindset that netted her six World Titles.
Conversely, Moore accumulated her Bells' victories in quick-fire succession, winning three consecutive titles from 2013 to 2015, the first female surfer in CT history to achieve the feat.
"It's such an honor, I love coming down here and it's such a magical place," Moore said after her last win. "To beat Steph is always so difficult. It's just been such a beautiful experience and I feel super blessed to be here."
The Hawaiian didn't have the opportunity to rack up anywhere near the flying hours that Gilmore had as a teenager over the limestone reef at Bells. But the strength of the Southern Ocean swells there provided Moore with a perfect canvas for her top-to-bottom surfing and power turns. She also was always quick to enlist local help, like QS surfer and coach Cahill Bell-Warren in 2015, for example, to further flatten her lineup learning curve.
Still, unlike Gilmore, Moore arrived at Bells in relatively poorer form, having failed to progress past the Quarterfinals at the season's previous two contests, at Snapper and Margaret River. On the upside, a forecast predicting solid swell should play to her strengths, and she has already proved that she is one of the best-ever to compete at Bells. The question that remains to be seen is, will it be Carissa or Steph who first grabs that elusive fourth Bell?