BELLS BEACH, Victoria/AUS (Tuesday, April 11, 2017) –
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, the third stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), begins tomorrow with a competitive window of April 12 - 24, 2017.
The longest-running professional surfing contest in the world, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach’s 56th iteration will witness a competitive field of elite surfers battle to prove themselves and earn the right to “ring the bell”.
Current WSL Champion and World No. 1 John John Florence (HAW) leads the WSL Jeep Leaderboard for the men after securing a major victory at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro and semifinal berth on the Gold Coast. John will look to surpass his 2016 13th place finish as he comes up against Jeremy Flores (FRA) and the Victorian Trials winner, Glyndyn Ringrose (AUS), in Round 1.
“This event has been running for so long which makes it really special,”he said. “So many of my heroes have come here and won this event and I want my name alongside their names. It’s a really tough event because you constantly have to adapt to changing conditions, but that’s another thing that makes it so special –you have to be a well-rounded surfer to take it out. I’m going to keep my game plan pretty similar to Margaret River, just big turns and surf to how the wave should be surfed.”
Six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and 2017 World Title contender Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) currently share the top spot on the Jeep Leaderboard. Both have secured multiple wins at this event, but a victory to close out the Australian leg will be critical to this year’s World Title race, with current World Champion Tyler Wright close on their heels.
Stephanie will face 2016 Rookie of the Year Keely Andrew (AUS) and injury replacement Isabella Nichols (AUS) in Round 1 Heat 4.
“There are so many memories from this place,”she said. “It’s such a legendary and iconic place, so to win is one of the best feelings in surfing. There is a really good vibe and spirit here that’s unlike anywhere else we go.”
2016 WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) is currently ranked third in the world and will look to surpass last year’s runner-up finish at this event. She will match up against Laura Enever (AUS) and trials winner, Rip Curl’s Ella Williams (NZL), in her Round 1 heat.
“So many legends of this sport, past and present, have held up the Bell and that’s what makes it so special,”Tyler said. “I’ve been coming here for years since I was a kid so am really comfortable here and have some great memories. It’s a really unique wave so I try and keep it simple with my surfing, just a couple of big turns and a solid finish, and I think that’s what will get me scores. I’m pumped to get the competition started.”
2016 event winners Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and Courtney Conlogue (USA) will look to defend their event titles this year. Wilkinson, current World No. 6, is out for a strong result in Victoria after an early exit in Margaret River. He will come up against 3x WSL Champion Mick Fanning (AUS), and Jadson Andre (BRA), in Heat 1.
“Bells is the place of my second ever CT win so it’s got a big place in my heart,”Wilkinson said. “I got a good start to my best ever year at this place so i’m super comfortable here. It changes a lot here and adapting and changing speed and positioning is one of my strong points so i’m always confident here. I’d love to go back-to-back here, it would mean the world.”
With a number of Australian and Rip Curl Junior events running at Bells Beach over the years, Current World No. 2 Owen Wright (AUS) is no stranger the big open walls of the Bells Bowl. After missing last year’s event, Ow is back in familiar surroundings and is keen to display the power that comes with experience. With a first and an equal fifth from his first two events back on the CT, he will no doubt be one to watch when he takes to the water at Bells.
“I have so many good memories from this place,”Owen said. “I’ve been coming here for so long and have had an affinity with it since I was a kid –plus, being a Rip Curl team rider, it just all makes it such a special spot for me. This has always been a strong event for me so I am definitely aiming high. After massive days at Margaret River, I’m stoked to be back in the water and not overpowered by the ocean.”
2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) is eager to improve his standing on the Jeep Leaderboard at this event. Gab has had some inconsistent finishes thus far on the Australian leg, but he’s looking forward to getting on a roll and back to the top-seed spot he’s grown accustomed to.
“It’s always great to come back to a place with such a rich history like Bells Beach,”Gabriel said. “Hopefully we can get some good waves throughout the window and have some fun. It’s such a different wave to any other that we go to on tour. You really have to adapt, especially on your backhand. Seeing Matt Wilkinson win here on his backhand last year has shown all of the goofy-footers that it is possible. I know I have it in me, so I’m pumped up to prove myself.”
Taking out the final two spots of the men’s draw were two competitors with very different experiences of the CT. Winning his way through the Rip Curl trials was Samuel Pupo (BRA) whose older brother Miguel [Pupo] has been competing on the CT for the better half of 5 years now. He will be joined by former CT competitor Glyndyn Ringrose who took out the local Visit Victoria Trials. Ringrose overcame a hungry pack of local Victorian surfers to find himself back in a CT event for the first time since 2001.
Kiwi Ella Williams (NZL) took out the women’s trials to book herself a spot into the main event. Williams has come close to Qualifying for the CT on a few occasions and this week will have her opportunity to mix it with the world’s best at the Iconic Bells Beach.
Italo Ferreira (BRA) has withdrawn from the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro after an ankle injury suffered earlier this year. Ferreira's position has been filled by Nat Young (USA).
Malia Manuel (HAW) will not be competing at this event due to a knee injury suffered during the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. Manuel will be replaced by Isabella Nichols (AUS).WSL Event Site
Rip Curl Pro Bells