After a long week in which we’ve seen average waves and just four male and three female surfers pack their bags, the Rip Curl Pro is set to finish with a bang. There’s plenty of questions all of which will be answered in the Bells Bowl. We dig in…

 1) Is This The End Of 2019 For Julian Or Kelly? 

Both Julian Wilson and Kelly Slater had poor starts to the year on the Goldy and another early loss could be fatal to their 2019 ambitions. While one early loss is manageable, two is deadly. Could a win over the GOAT kickstart Wilson’s World Title challenge? Or can Kelly reassert some relevance in a farewell tour that so far hasn’t played any of the big hits. By the end of the first heat of the Round of 32 we will know. 

2) The Most Improved Surfer Or The Most In Form Surfer? 

Reef Heazlewood has turned surfing on its head in the last 12 months. He has morphed from highly promising junior into one of the most electric surfers on the planet. His performance on the Gold Coast then cemented his credentials and if he can overcome Medina, it will be hard to keep the Australian away from the CT. Medina’s last 12 months however have been incredible. Since Bells last year he has surfed 11 events, won three, and made the Quarters at least in all but one. Can Heazlewood’s potential be realized in pumping Bells? Or will Medina crush the wildcard as he has done in every early round over the last year? 

Reef Heazlewood will have another big opportunity to prove his WCT worth when he surfs against world champion, Gabriel Medina.

3) Can NVD Be The Hometown Hero The Fans Crave? 

Victorian surf fans are known as some of the most hardcore on earth, yet they haven’t celebrated a local winner since Gail Couper back in 1976. Nikki Van Dijk, being the only Victorian left in the draw, remains the sole hope. The 24-year-old has one CT win to her name and knows the wave perhaps better than anyone else. If, and it’s a big if, she can get past two-times winner Courtney Conlogue in Round 3 expect the massive crowd to get right behind their girl. 

Nikki Van Dijk posing with the Bell that Victorian fans would love to see her ring.

4) Who Will Win The Frontside Backside Duels? 

Occy and Tom Curren set the template with their famous heat in 1986 (which they will relive later this week), but Round 3 has plenty of classic goofy natural matchups. The results of Italo v Jack, JJF vs Jadson, Wright vs Christie, Bourez v Callinan, Andino vs Wilcox and Kanoa vs Ace should be a sign whether Italo’s win last year (the first goofy winner since Occy in 1998) was a one-off or evidence of a backs-to-the-wall Bells resurgence.

5) Can A Teenager Be A Favourite?

There’s been young winners at Bells before (most famously Nick Wood as a 16-year-old in 1987 and Mick Fanning as an 18-year-old in 2001), but there’s never been a 17-year-old favourite. However Caroline Marks’ performances as a rookie here last year, her win on the Gold Coast and a solid forecast has seen the goofy’s odds shorten considerably. If she can, again, channel her inner Occy there’s no reason why she won’t cement her World No. 1 status by ringing that bell. Getting past Bronte Macaulay will be the first step.