After a shaky, albeit entertaining, start to the 2015 World Surf League the surf world is ready for the next stop on the Samsung Galaxy World Tour – the 2015 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach! The legendary contest is held in the Aussie state of Victoria on the South Coast and is one of the longest continuously running contests in surfing history with the first event being held in 1961!
This year’s event looks to be quite the soiree with a generational shift in the upper ranks of surfing’s elite, a “Brazilian Storm” in full effect, and new rookies looking to continue their early success. In addition, this year marks the return of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach being the second contest of the year after being stop #3 for the last two years following the Margaret River Drug Aware Pro.
The race for the World Title started out with a lackluster Quik Pro due to the poor surf on offer at Snapper. The “older” generation faltered heavily with Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson going down early. Small wave wizards dominated as youthful rookies took down the old guard and Brazil’s Filipe Toledo proved to be unbeatable. The young surfer is well known for his aerial repertoire, but he really showed the world his rail game, smooth effortless style, and amazing display of pure energy. Toledo will have to keep it up as the tour heads to Bells as the big guns will be hunting him down.
Notable match-ups on the Men’s side of the draw include Heat #1 with an in-form Taj versus red-hot Brazilian rookie Wiggolly Dantas and a fired up Jeremy Flores. Wiggolly’s butter-smooth backside carving will be on display, so Taj and J-Flo will have their work cut out for them. Heat #6 will have reigning World Champ Gabriel Medina up against rookie terror Matt Banting and the wildcard. Look for Banting to steal the show and send Gabriel to Round 2. Toledo looks to blow tail in Heat #11 over Owen Wright and fellow Brazilian Andre. The most anticipated heat for us is Heat #12 with superstars Julian Wilson and Kolohe Andino battling it out with a red-hot Wilko.
The women’s title race is taking shape as Hawaii’s Tatiana Weston-Webb looks to continue her impressive rookie campaign. She will face heavy competition from reigning Bells champ and current World #1 Carissa Moore, 2014 World Champ Stephanie Gilmore, past Bells winner Sally Fitzgibbons, and powerhouse Tyler Wright. Look for Courtney Conlogue’s rail and power game to be the new standard for performance in the event.
Will there be any surf? With forecasts looking very small for the waiting period, Bells Beach may in fact not be an option this year. Past back-up venues Johanna Beach, or Phillip Island might be the call if swell doesn’t show up. In the past, both spots have produced sick waves for competition when it’s ankle high at Bells, so we will have to see what Mother Nature provides.
Definitely the most exciting news of the event is the possibility of having the most entertaining and happiest of all surfers, Mason Ho, as a wildcard! The Hawaiian cruiser recently signed a solid contract with Rip Curl and will hopefully get the nod as the event’s sponsor wildcard.
Tune into the LIVE Webcast starting 7:30am Australia time on April 1st at worldsurfleague.com