You’d be crazy not to pick Mick Fanning.
In two days, the most talked about event of the season will be underway. Despite having a reputation as one of the least high performance waves on tour, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is nothing short of iconic. It’s been around for more than 50 years and every surfing great has rung the bell. Do well here and you can guarantee you put have put yourself in the world title conversation.
So, who’s worth watching at Bells?
No question that you need to put Mick in your fantasy team. All eyes will be on White Lightening in his swansong event from the World Championship Tour. The 4x Bells Beach Champion will be under intense media scrutiny with the whole world barracking for him to make history and cap off an incredible career with a victory. Expect him to make the finals at least after his surprising round 4 exit at Snapper. Who wouldn’t pay to see a final against best mate Parko, with the Bells bowl going off and the pair going hell for leather?
One of the criticisms of the judging in the past is that Jordy at 80% will always outscore a smaller opponent surfing at 100%. The big man throws a tonne of water and his surfing suits a big open canvas. Whereas someone like Caio Ibelli can throw the whole kitchen sink at Jords and still come up short. Like it or not surfing is subjective and we’re all influenced by who’s style we like more. The only chink in Jordy’s armour this year is that he’s experimenting with equipment after walking away from a reported $65K deal with Channel Islands. Hopefully he’s ordered a Simon Anderson for Bells.
The future Rookie of the Year has never surfed Bells but after his performance at Snapper we’d be surprised if he didn’t make the Quarters or better. If you look at the past Bells winners, all have done well in the Hawaiian Triple Crown. Proving you need to call upon a wealth of ocean knowledge and have an ability to adapt to a myriad of conditions if you want to do well on this piece of coast. After sewing up the VTCS in December and fresh off a semi-final appearance on the Gold Coast, expect the confident California wunderkind to tear through the draw.
Adriano de Souza
Never write of Adriano. He lives and breathes this event. The former champion arrives here early and stays late. He’s the first in the water every morning and surfs Bells in all conditions. While others might be whinging about being sent out at low tide Rincon, de Souza relishes it. He knows where to sit, comes with a game plan and never falls. After a quiet few years post World Title and with the young Brazilian guard hot on his heels, this event is his opportunity to reassert himself in the pecking order.
Oozing SoCal cool and a deft rail game that is a mix between Taylor Knox, Curren and Reynolds the Santa Barbarian looks right at home at Bells. Two years ago, as a rookie he impressed with his drop wallet snaps and demeanor of a tour vet. After switching from longtime coach, Brad Gerlach, to team Micro, it’ll be interesting to see what he can bring to the table this season. Like Adriano, he’s most lethal when he keeps his board in the water and utilizes every inch of his rail. I would love to see him paddle out on a longer board, like a 6’6” Channel Islands Black Beauty. Who knows, it could be the X-factor that sets him apart from his competitors.
Scroll to 6:00 to see Conner take apart J-Bay on his faithful Channel Islands Black Beauty.
Hawaiian Power. Zeke has had his warm up year on tour, only surviving to his spot on the CT by relying upon his QS ranking at the end of the season. Remember last season when Zeke stormed the judging tour after the “faulty audio connection” saw him pegged for an interference and the decision later reversed upon review? It was weird. And very Sunny Garcia. Should Zeke channel his Hawaiian Uncle and intimidate the opposition with his sheer physical presence along with his Snake cunningness instilled by coach, Jake Patterson, expect him to get on a roll. Certain stops on tour are custom built for surfers, Bells is one of those for Zeke.
Being compared to a young Occy is a pretty huge wrap for any surfer. But when you’re a 15-year-old Rookie from Florida it’s praise of the highest order. And who could argue? After seeing her tear the bag at Bells last week on Instagram it appeared she had been binge watching the Occumentary and every single heat Occ ever surfed at Bells. I would love to see her in the final.
The transformation of Tyler Wright continues. The girl who used to dance like no one was watching before heats has become one of the steeliest focused competitors in the women’s draw. However, ringing the Bell in Torquay still eludes the back-to-back World Champion. Her battles against Hawaiian Carissa Moore are legendary. If the pair match up again, expect fireworks with Moore looking to reclaim her throne and Wright with something to prove.