A cacophony of bells reverberated around the sandstone cliffs of Bells Beach on Wednesday, announcing the wins of two wholly unsurprising victors. Mick Fanning lifted the oldest trophy in surfing for the third time, thus dispelling any doubts about his early season form. Meanwhile Carissa Moore made it back-to-back wins in WA and Victoria, gaining a slim margin over the trophy starved field below.
The fire has been fanned
Top gear had been only partially engaged for the reigning champ during the opening two events, the clutch grinding just a smidgeon as the world title hangover wore off. A third round slap in the face from Yadin Nicol at Margaret River proved sufficient to release him from this stupor, and slicing through the open canvases of Bells and Winkipop Mick looked every bit his razor-sharp self.
“After that result (13th) in Margaret River I went home and worked really hard and I’m so pleased that the hard work paid off," said Fanning. "Congratulations to Taj (Burrow), I’ve never been so nervous for nine minutes of my life, he surfed amazingly. We got to surf everywhere at this event which was awesome, we got to surf the Bowl, Rincon and to finish at Winkipop. It’s always been my dream to surf a Heat at Winkipop. This is such a special event for me and I feel comfortable here. With the calibre of surfers on Tour at the moment there’s never an easy Heat and it keeps it so exciting.”
Adriano is always like that, you know pretty competitive. He always does that, I knew he was going to do that, and I tried to play his game, but it didn't work out. I guess I did it just to be competitive, just to get fired up.Gabriel Medina
Medina falls for an old dog's tricks
In a struggle for the inside Adriano de Souza pushed Medina all the way to Rincon at the start of their round 5 heat, leaving the youngster half a football pitch out of position. Calmly, de Souza floated back towards the established take off spot and racked up two solid scores before the tour leader could blink. Making your way past the reeling section between the Bowl and Rincon is tricky on your foreghand, but nigh on impossible with your back to the wall.
Medina is brimming with competitive instinct, to the point where it is almost to his detriment, as recognised in his post heat interview: "Adriano is always like that, you know pretty competitive. He always does that, I knew he was going to do that, and I tried to play his game, but it didn't work out. I guess I did it just to be competitive, just to get fired up."
Wilson breaks the curse
Julian has had the unfortunate dilemma of surfing well for two events yet failing to post a result. Faced with Jordy and his goliath turns in round 5, progression to the quarterfinals looked improbable, but Julian kept his composure and snuck in a 9.1 under Smith's priority. In the dying moments, Jordy needed a 9.97 to progress through, and in an infuriated assault on the Bells bowl he almost achieved the goal, scoring a 9.93. Wilson is a man in need of a little luck, and in that .04 disparity, he was granted it.
There won't be any airs today
So said Senior Slater, in anticipation of his quarterfinal heat against John John. "The winds are offshore and there's not much lip; It will just be a straightforward carve fest." Sticking it to the oracle, John John proceeded to launch a lofty slob grab straight air on his first wave, which, though awkwardly landed, eventually proved the decisive blow to Kelly's campaign. Eventually ousted by Taj in the semis, John John has proved in this event that risk taking and heat making can happily go hand in hand; you just have to be John John to pull it off.
I’ve been a little nervous this whole contest and I haven’t felt real confident in my surfing lately. I’ve had a couple of things nagging me and I haven’t been free surfing enough. Kelly Slater
“I had the waves to win the Heat and he (Florence) capitalized on my mistakes,” said Slater. “It was a slow Heat so the nerves build and I forced a couple of turns. I think after I blew it on that one wave it hit my confidence. I’ll be hard on myself on that one for the next few hours I think. I’ve been a little nervous this whole contest and I haven’t felt real confident in my surfing lately. I've had a couple of things nagging me and I haven’t been free surfing enough. I’m happy for John John though. I’ve had a couple of quarterfinals and a semifinal so the Australian leg hasn’t been too bad for me.”
Groundhog Day for the women
Once again it was Tyler Wright and Carissa Moore who rose to the top, and as with Margarets, Carissa's wave choice and power hacks were an ounce more impressive.
"I'm speechless right now," Carissa Moore said. "That was an amazing Final! We were having such a blast, I just wanted to talk to Tyler (Wright) because the waves were so fun and it felt like we were having a fun free surf. I know she's such an amazing surfer and will be in ASP World Title contention at the end of the year, so I knew I had to be at my best. It's been a long Australian leg with three events in a row and it couldn't have been much better for me, two wins and a quarterfinal and to finish by winning at Bells is so unique and special."
Soon will come the day
“Carissa (Moore) is just an amazing human and a great winner,” said Tyler Wright post-final. “When I hit the water it’s all about surfing and catching waves and I like to enjoy what I’m doing and be in the moment, not worry about anything else that I can’t control. I just want to surf the way I surf.”
Outside of the water Wright remains submissive to Carissa's dominance, a dangerous underdog who has yet to properly sink her teeth in. For now she accepts defeat against this "amazing human being," accustomed as she is to taking runner up, but soon will come the day when the irritation of second best starts to seethe from within.
The winner of Rio has proved notoriously hard to predict. Since being re-introduced to the World Tour we've had Adriano, John John and Jordy all lift the trophy, but foresight is far from 20:20 when it comes to the changeable beachbreaks of Brazil.
What are your thoughts? What's got into Slater? Will Medina's form continue through to Rio and beyond? Is Carissa going to blitz the tour again, despite all the talent on her heels?
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Final Results:
Final: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.83 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.46
Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Final Results:
Final: Carissa Moore (HAW) 16.23 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 15.77
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Semifinal Results:
Semifinal 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.43 def. John John Florence (HAW) 13.43
Semifinal 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.20 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.36
Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Semifinal Results:
Semifinal 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.10 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 10.53
Semifinal 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.77 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.77
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Quarterfinal Results:
Quarterfinal 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.50 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.16
Quarterfinal 2: John John Florence (HAW) 13.13 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 11.10
Quarterfinal 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.53 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.34
Quarterfinal 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.16 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 11.37
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.27 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.33
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.26 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 12.44
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.30 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.26
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.37 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 13.10