The second event of the 2019 Championship Tour is upon us with the legendary Men's and Women's Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach running from April 17-27.
Riding high off his buzzer beater victory against Kolohe Andino in the Final at Gold Coast, defending Men's champ Italo Ferreira will be looking to join the ranks of Kelly Slater, Matt Wilkinson and Sunny Garcia as the only male surfers to win the Gold Coast and Bells back-to-back.
Hosted on the cold and wet Victorian Coast line, Bells is surfing's longest-running pro event. It's earliest iteration dates back to 1962; however, Rip Curl signed on as the primary Bells sponsor in 1973, significantly upping the prize money and putting the event on the map.
In 1981, Australian surfer Simon Anderson changed the course of surf history at Bells when he famously debuted his self-shaped tri-fin thruster and went on to win the event. This and other revolutionary moments at Bells led Shane Dorian to once famously quip, "No kook has ever rung the bell."
Bells is a right point that works best with a Southwest swell and Northwest wind. The break is most consistent between the months of April and September. An underwater ridge directly offshore plays an essential role in refracting swell into the break.
Historically, the Australians have dominated the event with 39 wins for the men and 30 for the women. Mick Fanning, Slater and MR are tied with four wins and Gail Couper is the undisputed Queen of Bells with a staggering 10 event wins.
All eyes will be on Italo and Steph to repeat history at Bells; however, there are serious contenders gunning for the Bell.
John Florence is back, healthy and making a serious go at a Title run. He will also kick of the event in Round 1 Heat 11 surfing his 300th career heat at Bells, a serious benchmark for the 2x World Champ.
In 2018, then rookie Caroline Marks took a solid third place finish at the event, ultimately falling to Gilmore in the Semifinals. But with the amount of momentum she has after her win at Gold Coast, Marks will be a serious threat to Gilmore's potential 5th Bells win.
And let's not forget about the perennial GOAT, the mighty Slater. Yes, he had a disappointing performance at the Gold Coast, an event that has historically been a strong indicator of his eventual season-wide performance. But to count him out this early would be foolish.
The man has had a deep history with the event dating back to his first win there in 1994. With Olympic qualifications burning in his mind, the global ambassador for surfing still has fight left in him.
Watch the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach live April 17-27 on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.