“I just think we rushed it a bit,” stated Mick Fanning in relation to the call to run. Mick was grimacing like an arctic explorer as gale force winds threatened to drown out his post-heat interview. “We still had days left in the waiting period and then when I saw Parko and Kerrzy out there scratching for fives … I’ll take a bit of onshore Bells – like yesterday arvo – but that was coming out of Bass straight at its worst … ” Despite campaigning to have the event called off for the day, Mick did enough white-water pin-balling in the victory at sea peaks to win his dog-fight with Jadson Andre and progress through to a quarter-final match up with Jordy Smith. Jordy has a bigger arsenal of turns but Mick has a superior understanding of the wave and a more reliable rail attack. If the lips are crumbly and predictable Jordy could become the contender his talent suggests he should be, but he’ll need to be at his best to beat Mick at Bells.

Hauling yourself into surfing’s coveted top five zone is like climbing a mountain and finding that the last ledge  is beyond vertical and requires an upside down assault. Like Jordy, Josh Kerr desperately wants to be there. “I’m really hungry,” commented Kerrzy after upsetting Parko.  “… You know top ten, I’ve done it. Now I’m just trying to do something else that gets me to that next level and into finals.” When asked about his reliance upon carves and rail turns to progress through to the quarters, the one-time aerial specialist pointed out how much his surfing had evolved. “I’m just stoked that I can rely on my turns to get this far in a contest … If you’d have asked me when I was twenty years old if I’d be making quarter finals at Bells beach, I’d be calling bullshit because there was no way that my surfing suited it… I’m just stoked that I can rely on my power surfing to get me through, heat after heat.” Kerrzy also indicated that continuing to evolve your surfing is crucial to remaining relevant and interested. “I constantly evolve my surfing. I’m such a grom’ … I’m always looking at what the groms are doing, I’m always pushing myself and my surfing – trying to open the shoulders and turn my head in the air, and do all the different manoeuvres and grabs. I’m also trying to get ahead of the curve as well, I don’t always want to be chasing it.”

No one has done a better job of repeatedly redefining the cutting edge of surfing than Kelly Slater, however today the king couldn’t match his young nemesis Gabriel Medina. Whether Kelly wanted to surf or not is unclear but it’s certainly true that this is the second contest in a row in which he has made his exit in sub-par conditions. Certainly it’s his job to compete in whatever the world tour throws up, but it seems as time goes on, Kelly will have a much harder time of winning or displaying his mastery if the conditions are ordinary. Today, he fell on regulation sections, made priority mistakes and let the best wave of the heat roll through unridden when he was in a position to take a shot. Much has been made of Kelly’s relentless pursuit for the perfect board. This quest is intriguing; it makes for good media fodder (we’ve definitely chimed in) and ensures Kelly is always being talked about. At its purest Kelly’s well documented board odyssey seems like a mystical quest for the holy-grail, at its most trivial it feels a bit like a bunch of fashion designers are standing around and biting their nails, hoping the most famous person will wear their gown to the Oscars so they get the subsequent exposure and sales spike. Every time Kelly paddles out everyone is like ‘Oh my God, look what Kelly is wearing now.’ You can even click on the WSL and see Ross Williams discussing Kelly’s whole board wardrobe. Given the hype around Kelly’s board experiments, it’s interesting to consider the approach of current ranking’s leader Filipe Toledo. Toledo has been riding the same Sharp Eye, Holy Toledo model (Marcio Zouvi shape) that propelled him to a stunning victory in the Quiksilver Pro. Occasionally it looks a little catchy in the chubbier Bells lumps, but for the most part it has enabled him to maintain an incredible rhythm.  He knows the board intimately and certainly isn’t overanalysing it or constantly considering alternatives. For a competitor, it seems a much healthier head-space than the one Kelly is in right now when it comes to boards.

While the Filipe Vs Nat Young quarter will be a great contrast in approaches, on an interpersonal level the most intriguing match up in the quarters is between Adriano De Souza and Gabriel Medina. At some point Adriano undoubtedly felt that it was his destiny to become Brazil’s first world champion and that the young upstart, Gabriel Medina, stole his glory. When asked if they had spoken since Gabriel won the title, Medina explained that Adriano had worn his heart on his sleeve when they talked. “After my title he spoke a little bit with me … he said he really wanted to be the first Brazilian world champ, but that he was stoked for me. We are friends but in the water we are competitors and that’s our job.” Desperate to demonstrate he can still be Brazil’s number one surfer, Adriano will scrap and claw against the shimmering new Golden Boy of professional surfing. Meanwhile, Medina will look to become known as the “Redeemer” and make everyone forget a Quiksilver Pro that was unceremonious for a whole range of reasons.

Interestingly the battle for surfing domination between Australia and Brazil is on again. At Snapper it was four Australians and  four Brazilians in the quarters, while at Bells there are three a piece. The first round went to Brazil with Toledo winning the Quiksilver Pro and only one Aussie (Julian Wilson) making the semis. If the Brazilians secure another team victory at Bells they might be tempted to scream, “We’re tops Now!”

A huge thanks to Isuzu for providing the Tracks team with vehicles for the 2015 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.

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