"We like to see the surfers hold their rail through the whole turn," said WSL Head Judge Richie Porta, as he explained some of the judging criteria at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
A quick scan of the 12 surfers left in the competition sees a high percentage that can hold their rail. To do this you need power. Power-surfing fits the Bells Bowl. The Bells Bowl fits power-surfing.
Frederico Morais and Zeke Lau stand out as the shiniest of examples. While rookies can find it tough to synch in with the rhythm of the wave, these two have simply used their timing, power and rail work to demolish each section that has come their respective ways. Their backgrounds have helped, with Morais growing up in Portugal, with a similar style of point breaks to those at Bells, and Lau growing up on the North Shore.
With both standing over 6'1" and weighing in at 180 pounds-plus, torque too isn't an issue. However, it has been their mutual ability to hold their rails through high-speed arcs that has seen them rack up some huge upsets.
At the other end of the experience scale, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Adriano de Souza and Jordy Smith all have a type of surfing that shines when Bells gets serious. Sometimes the polish of Fanning and Parkinson camouflages the sheer amount of water they move, but make no mistake, these are two of the finest rail surfers that surfing has ever seen. De Souza, with his square, drawn-out bottom turns and brutal pocket wrenches, also loves to feed off the power of the Southern Ocean. Last year's Bells runner-up Smith combines the best of all these surfers into one seamless combo of power, style and execution.
Elsewhere, Brazilians Wiggolly Dantas and Filipe Toledo might not exactly conjure images of past power luminaries of Bells -- like Occy, Andy Irons or Sunny Garcia -- but Toledo proved at Margaret River that he is adding serious bulk to his turns. Meanwhile, Dantas is a surfing purist and a supreme technician who relies on timing and power to generate some of the biggest spray on the Championship Tour (CT).
And, of course, that just leaves the ratings' leaders Owen Wright and John John Florence, who have come to represent a new prototype for power. Their high-speed gouges often come with added sparks of tail release, providing a new dimension to what is possible in the Bells Bowl.
There is a famous adage about this contest, coined by Shane Dorian, asserting that "No kook has ever won Bells." That famous quote has stood the test of time. We might add, though, that no lightweight has won it either. Whoever rings that Bells will have mastered Bells Bowl with their own mix of brute force and smooth technique. And that's what makes this event so special.