March 29, 2024

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

This year’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, celebrated as the longest-running event in competitive surfing, began on Tuesday this week, bringing together the world’s finest surfers to the iconic break.

The fourth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour is where legends are made, and champions are crowned with the ceremonial ringing of the bell.

The first day saw classic surf conditions greet competitors, offering clean four-to-six-foot waves at Bells for the women’s and men’s opening rounds and the men’s elimination round, leading to the event’s first departures.

Gabriel Medina shone in the men’s division, scoring the highest two-wave total of the day with a near-perfect ride contributing to his impressive score.

Tyler Wright, aiming for a third consecutive Bells Beach win, dominated the women’s opening round with the highest score of the day, showcasing her strength and precision on the waves.

Kelly Slater, leveraging his extensive experience, won his heat against tough competitors, demonstrating strategic mastery in a challenging lineup

“It’s 30 years since my first win here and 32 years since my first event here,” said Slater.

“It’s good to be back, and you know it would be a real dream for me to book in and try to get my fifth win here again 30 years later.”

Local wildcard Ellie Harrison and Isabella Nichols upset the rankings by defeating World No. 1 Molly Picklum, sending her into the elimination round.

Other notable performances included local wildcard Tully Wylie and Rip Curl wildcard George Pittar, both advancing through their heats with standout performances.

The second day of the competition saw leading competitors taken out.

The event moved to Winkipop, featuring semi-clean waves and completing key rounds for both men and women.

Major upsets included World No. 1 Molly Picklum and reigning event winner Tyler Wright being eliminated.

Rookie Sawyer Lindblad and local wildcard Ellie Harrison delivered standout performances, moving into the quarterfinals and shaking up the competition.

Harrison said she felt a mix of nerves and excitement facing Wright.

“When I saw the heat draw come out, I was like ‘oh no’ – I look up to Tyler so much, she’s the nicest person in the water, gives me compliments, she’s such a cool girl,” Harrison said.

“I went into that heat with the mentality that I’ve got nothing to lose. I tried to keep my cool, so I was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to find where the sets were coming in and try to get a big score.”

“Then I got another one, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be the score, but I was so glad I got through. It’s a dream come true surfing at Bells, walking out with all my family and friends cheering for me on, it’s something I’ve thought about every year, and now it’s real. It’s a little weird, I don’t know how to act.”

Speaking at the launch event on Monday this week, Surf Coast Shire mayor Liz Pattison said she was stoked to have the event back.

“It’s such a privilege to have the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach here again, it’s been going for 61 years and it’s such an amazing event.”

“We really like to acknowledge surfing role models and female role models for our aspiring surfers.”

Cr Pattison then presented Championship Tour world number one Molly Picklum, with a giant 10kg chocolate surfer bunny from Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.

“We wanted to celebrate you with this surfing chocolate bunny,” she said.

Read full Surf Coast Times story here.

Image credit:  Cr Pattison presented Championship Tour world number one Molly Picklum, with a giant 10kg chocolate surfer bunny from Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. Photo: ANGUS SMITH

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