The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is set to launch tomorrow on the infamous Victorian beach. The second stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), Bells is the longest-running professional surf contest in the world, originally taking place in 1962.
This season’s window, from March 24th through April 5th, will serve as the second of the three-stop Australian leg of the WSL Championship Tour, picking up from last week’s kickoff on the Gold Coast.
Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and Tyler Wright (AUS) lead the elite men’s and women’s fields respectively heading into the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, following major victories at the opening stop at Snapper Rocks.
Wilkinson, who is into his seventh season competing against the world elite, collected his maiden CT win on the Gold Coast and wears the yellow Jeep WSL Leader Jersey at Bells Beach this coming week. Long regarded as one of the most naturally-talented surfers on tour, Wilkinson’s former aversion to training and fully leveraging his talents has been significantly reversed in 2016, in large part due to his relationship with coach, former CT surfer, Glenn Hall.
“We’ve found a good balance over the last few months,” Wilkinson said. “Glenn (Hall) has helped me realized that I don’t want to wonder if I could have done better on tour. I’m still having a lot of fun, but I’m taking better care of myself and that has translated into results. Hoping to keep it going at Bells and hope we get some fun waves.”
Wright, a yearly threat to the WSL Title since her CT inception in 2011, was untouchable at the opening event on the Gold Coast and has her sights firmly set on attaining the, as yet, elusive world surfing crown.
“I’m focused this year,” Wright said. “2015 was a bit of an off year for me and I’ve had a few close years on tour with regards to the title, but that’s my goal for my next few seasons. 2016 is off to a good start and I aim to keep it rolling at Bells.”
Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Carissa Moore (HAW), reigning WSL Champions, are also past winners at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and will be dangerous when competition gets underway this week.
Mick Fanning (AUS), three-time WSL Champion and four-time Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach winner, has stated that 2016 will be a ‘personal year’ for him and he will take some time off following the Bells Beach event. The iconic Australian, however, is still considered a heavy favorite in the myriad conditions that Bells Beach can throw at competitors.
A number of injury withdrawals have shaken up the competitive draw at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
On the men’s side, Owen Wright (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Alejo Muniz (BRA) remain out of action resulting from their 2015 injuries. Their positions will once again be taken by Adam Melling (AUS), Stuart Kennedy (AUS) and Sebastian Zietz (HAW) respectively.
Perennial threat Filipe Toledo (BRA) has withdrawn from the remaining Australian leg events (Bells Beach and Margaret River) following his injury during the Semifinals of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Toledo’s position at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach has been filled by Mason Ho (HAW), who picked up heat wins as a wildcard last season at Bells Beach and in Peniche, and whose Semifinal finish at December’s Billabong Pipe Masters have placed him well on the international radar.
Additionally, rookie sensation Jack Freestone (AUS) suffered a serious knee injury while training following the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Freestone has withdrawn from the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and his position will be filled by former CT danger man Dusty Payne (HAW).
On the women’s side, Lakey Peterson (USA) remains out of competition following her pre-season ankle injury. Her position will once again be filled by Bronte Macaulay (AUS).
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach will be webcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com as well as the WSL app.
The event is also being carried by our LIVE broadcast partners Fox Sports Australia, CBS Sports in the United States, ESPN Brasil, Globosat, Edgesport, Sky NZ, Sport TV, Canal + Deportes, Channel Nine, MCS, Starhub, and Oceanic Time Warner Cable 250 & 1250 in Hawaii.
For more information, log onto WorldSurfLeague.com
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Davey Cathels (AUS)
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS), Stuart Kennedy (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Conner Coffin (USA), TBD
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS), Keanu Asing (HAW), TBD
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), TBD
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA), Kai Otton (AUS), Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Taj Burrow (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 9: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Kolohe Andino (USA), Miguel Pupo (HAW)
Heat 10: Nat Young (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 11: Josh Kerr (AUS), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Matt Banting (AUS)
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW), Jordy Smith (ZAF), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), Chelsea Tuach (BRB)
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW), Alessa Quizon (HAW)
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW), Keely Andrew (AUS), TBD
Heat 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Laura Enever (AUS)
Heat 5: Tyler Wright (AUS), Sage Erickson (USA), Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 6: Joanne Defay (FRA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)