BELLS BEACH, Victoria /AUS (Tuesday, April 16, 2019) - The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, Stop No. 2 of the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), will see its 58th year of competition commence this week at one of professional surfing's most iconic locations. The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is the longest-running surfing event on the planet, dating back to the Bells Beach Easter Classic in 1973.
Bells Beach is a sacred place to Indigenous Australians, with the Wathaurong People considering it one of their "Songlines" (or Dreaming Tracks). This sentiment has seeped into the surfing world and Bells has long been considered a holy site in surfing - the annual Easter pilgrimage to Bells Beach has been labeled "the Gathering of the Tribe".
Defending Event Winners Gilmore and Ferreira Ready for Bells Beach, Stop No. 2 on the WSL CT
Last season Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) started her campaign to clinch a seventh World Title with a win at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Having won the event four times in her career, Gilmore's success at Bells goes unbeaten by the current CT competitors and is only matched by 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (AUS). After starting the season on the Gold Coast with an Equal 5th place finish, Gilmore will be hoping to take back-to-back wins at Bells in her quest to win a record eighth World Title in 2019.
"I started last year with an equal 5th and then came to Bells, won the event and went on to win the Title, so I'm not too worried about last week's result," Gilmore said. "It is great to be back here at Bells Beach. It's a place I've been coming to and competing at since I was 15 years old, so it really does feel like a second home for me and the wave itself suits how I love to surf. Ringing the Bell is a true honor and I'd love to do it for the fifth time."
After a few years of epic performances and establishing himself on the WSL CT, Italo Ferreira (BRA) finally took his breakthrough victory at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in 2018 where he overcame surfing icon Mick Fanning in a historic Final. Ferreira continued his winning streak into two more event wins in 2018 (Bali and Portugal) and then into the opening event of the 2019 season on the Gold Coast. The electric young Brasilian comes into the second stop leading the Jeep Rankings and positioned well for a tilt at his maiden World Title.
"The Bells Final last year was such a special moment in my career," Ferreira said. "To share the water with Mick (Fanning) in his last heat was surreal, so this is definitely a very special place for me. To have my name on the winner's list with all of the legends of our sport is an honor for me. There is so much energy on the beach and in the air with all of the fans, which is really cool. To win the event again is going to be so difficult because the level on Tour is getting higher and higher every event - I'll be trying my hardest to get the win though."
With the recent retirements of legends Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) is the only competitor left in the men's draw who has hoisted the Bell multiple times. Slater, who has only just returned to full-time competition from a foot injury, is hoping that the experience of competing at Bells Beach for over two decades can will him over the line to take a fourth Bells Title.
"I've got amazing memories from over the years coming to the Surf Coast to compete," Slater said. "It's one of the most iconic locations in our sport and you always get a unique feeling when you paddle out to surf here. This was actually the first event I ever surfed as a full-time competitor on Tour. This wave can change pretty rapidly and you have to be ready for anything. It can really challenge the best surfers. It's good to be back here and feeling reinvigorated as I haven't surfed this event in two years, so I'm excited to get this underway."
Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) is the only Victorian representative on the elite CT and will have her home state cheering for her when competition commences. Having a best result of a Quarterfinal at the event nearly five years ago, Van Dijk is still in search of a win in front of her home crowd, which would make her only the second Victorian female to win the event in its history, the first being Gail Couper, who holds the record of 10 Bells Titles.
"Of course I'd love to take out this event," Van Dijk said. "I used to come here as a kid and watch all of my heroes compete and now I get to do it myself, which is cool, but I'm still yet to ring the Bell, which is for sure a massive goal for me. I'd love to think that this year is the year I could do it, but winning CT events is not an easy thing to do even if you know the wave back to front -- it's still my goal though."
Rising Tides - WSL Girls Program Hits Bells Beach
In addition to welcoming the world's best surfers, Bells Beach also hosted the second stop of the Rising Tides - WSL Girls Program. Up-and-coming surfers (ages 6-to-16) took over the lineup at Rincon alongside the world's most elite competitors. The young surfers got the opportunity to surf with their heroes, while also meeting legendary surfer Gail Couper, the holder of 10 Bells Titles and first female Bells Beach Champion.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Wildcards: Kobie Enright, Jacob Willcox, and Harrison Mann
The Rip Curl and Local Trials were run on Sunday, April 14 and Monday, April 15 to determine the event's wildcards. Kobie Enright (AUS) took her second-consecutive Trials win along. Enright will be joined by West Australian Jacob Willcox, who will have his second start at Bells Beach with the first being back in 2013. The local trials were taken out by Harrison Mann (AUS), and this event will mark his first WSL CT event appearance.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women's Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) vs. Kobie Enright (AUS) Heat 4: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRI)
Heat 5: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 6: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Sage Erickson (USA)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men's Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Heat 5: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Jacob Willcox (AUS)
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Harrison Mann (AUS)
Heat 7: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 8: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Soli Bailey (AUS)
Heat 9: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
Heat 11: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 12: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)