In an eerie half-light that hung over Bells Beach yesterday, the 50th anniversary of competitive surfing at this storied venue got underway in the traditional manner: with the opening strains of AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" echoing off the sandstone cliffs. With the swell in the solid six-to-eight foot range at first light, the chiming of the bell may well have sent shivers down a few spines.
Some of today's surfing was equally spine chilling. Alejo Muniz took out Ace Buchan and Adam Melling sent Taj Burrow to Round 2 before Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater set levels for everyone else to match.
Fanning creased his board going for big forehand snaps, paddled to the beach, and was back in the line up with an identical backup board within minutes. Slater changed boards mid-heat after scoring seven and nine point rides, but he just swapped from a thruster to a quad.
Both guys, who are super fit, were sucking hard after their heats. Bells is a tough wave to ride with lots of paddling and duck diving. Matty Wilkinson and Joel Parkinson were the only other guys to come close to the standard set by the No.1 and 2 seeds, Slater and Fanning.
"It was hard work out there," said Kelly sucking for breath, "I still don't really know Bells that well, and especially at this size. I was watching where Robbo (wildcard Adam Robertson) was sitting and keeping an eye how deep to go and where to sit."
Mick Fanning was also puffing hard and bummed that he creased his board. When asked if he'd gone for a bigger board to replace the one he'd creased, he explained he'd ridden the same shape and size board.
"My back-up board is exactly the same and I would rather not have creased a board and been put in this situation. I'm one board down, and it's just the first heat. I went up for a top turn and was just a fraction late as I hit the lip. You've got space about a foot long to hit and I just missed it and felt the board give."
In light, variable winds, the surf continued to pump till dark. There are two distinct sections to the Bells wave -- the Bowl and Rincon. Through low tide, the Bowl worked, and as the tide filled in, the waves moved over to the Rincon section, which runs along the base of the sandstone cliffs.
During Heat 10, featuting Joel Parkinson, Bede Durbidge and CJ Hobgood, the conditions were in between, and all three guys struggled to pick exactly were to sit. Durbidge paddled back and forth between the Bowl and Rincon while Hobgood and Parko tried to find the right waves at Rincon.
A frustrated Parkinson finally blew up with a massive air -- landing, laying back, and using the white water to push him upright. The judges threw down the day's highest wave score of 9.57 points and he was finally safe, moving straight into Round Three.
There were also some very frustrated surfers, none more so than Jordy Smith. The solid conditions should have suited the big guy, but Jordy couldn't buy a decent wave. Maybe jetlag from the grueling flight from South Africa could be to blame, but then the guy that beat him, wildcard Stu Kennedy, had just arrived in Bells after flying half way around the planet from the O'Neill Coldwater Classic in Scotland.
The Women also got started yesterday, with Pauline Ado, of France, upsetting No. 1, Carissa Moore. Jacqueline Silva, who was involved in a head-on crash yesterday on her way to the contest site, fortunately seems to only have minor injuries. Apparently, the other driver blacked out and swerved into her lane. She will not be surfing the Rip Curl Pro Bells, however, and has been replaced by Grom Search Girls' Champ, Nikki Dijk, from Victoria.
The swell was still pumping as the light disappeared. The buzz around the contest site is that we are going to get surf for days, maybe even bigger today, so there will be more chills first thing in the morning when ACDC blasts out over Bells again.
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 13.23, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.26, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 7.37
Heat 2: Adam Melling (AUS) 14.50, Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.30, Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.00
Heat 3: Heitor Alves (BRA) 14.36, Bobby Martinez (USA) 14.14, Owen Wright (AUS) 10.60
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.60, Tiago Pires (PRT) 11.07, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 9.27
Heat 5: Stu Kennedy (AUS) 11.70, Dusty Payne (HAW) 10.50, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 9.00
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.00, Kai Otton (AUS) 10.13, Adam Robertson (AUS) 8.53
Heat 7: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.17, Cory Lopez (USA) 5.83, Taylor Knox (USA) 4.67
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.60, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 10.20, Gabe Kling (USA) 3.50
Heat 9: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.60, Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.23, Daniel Ross (AUS) 11.07
Heat 10: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.74, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.44, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 8.17
Heat 11: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.60, Chris Davidson (AUS) 10.83, Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.83
Heat 12: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 13.40, Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.43, Brett Simpson (USA) 8.93
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Adam Robertson (AUS)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Bobby Martinez (USA)
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 5: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 6: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 7: Brett Simpson (USA) vs. Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 8: Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Daniel Ross (AUS)
Heat 9: Chris Davidson (AUS) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 10: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 11: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 12: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 12.93, Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 8.70, Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 8.66
Heat 2: Silvana Lima (BRA) 14.94, Laura Enever (AUS) 8.84, Melanie Bartels (HAW) 7.54
Heat 3: Pauline Ado (HAW) 14.60, Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.44, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.63
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.30, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 9.00, Bethany Hamilton (HAW) 6.50
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.10, Alana Blanchard (HAW) 12.83 Paige Hareb (NZL) 7.47
Heat 6: Coco Ho (HAW) 12.90, Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.00, Pauline Ado (FRA) 6.37
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Paige Hareb (NZL) vs. Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS)
Heat 2: Laura Enever (AUS) vs. Melanie Bartels (HAW)
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
Heat 4: Chelsea Hedges (AUS) vs. Bethany Hamilton (HAW)
Heat 5: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Alana Blanchard (HAW)
Heat 6: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Rebecca Woods (AUS)