Was somebody at Rip Curl writing the script for this year's 50th Anniversary at Bells? Who could have predicted that this contest would come together in such an amazing way, with four days of four- to six-foot, near-perfect waves, legendary surfers everywhere, Easter holiday crowds lining the cliffs, and some amazing slashing from the top surfers in the world?
Round four of the men's event ran yesterday. Surfers call it the "Dane" round because it allows for very progressive surfing without fear of total elimination, ala Dane Reynolds. But the commentators on the beach were calling it the "Power Round," and it was the perfect description.
Each of the twelve surfers left in the event threw down big power moves, and none more so than Mick Fanning, who put together a two-wave score of 19.10 points out of 20. Three judges even gave him tens when he punched a four-foot hole in the top of a Bells lip that had the whole beach oohing and aahing. He emerged from the water to a crowd of fans clapping.
By the time the day was done, Fanning's efforts were almost forgotten, being eclipsed by Sally Fitzgibbons' maiden Tour victory. Fitzgibbons, of New South Wales, also threw down eights and nines in every heat she surfed today. Two nine point waves against the defending event champion and current world champ Stephanie Gilmore, set up a final against Carissa Moore, winner of the Quiksilver Pro on Gold Coast in March.
It might be cliché, but a lot of observers were saying it was Sally's day. She nailed every heat and left the water each time ready for the next challenge. Her Dad, who travels with her to all the World Tour events, said she was in a "special place" this morning before they came to the contest site.
"This morning's conditions were just picture perfect," explained Fitzgibbons, "I just wanted to get out there and do the waves some justice. I was just so excited to be surfing in such perfect waves -- everyone was. We were all laughing at the lines that were coming in. I was jumping out of my skin to get in the water."
Fitzgibbons did do the waves justice. She picked clean, long walls and cut across them with sharp, precise turns. You could see her coming out of one turn and visualizing her next. No one was going to stop Sally today -- not even Moore.
"I really wish I could have rung the big bell," said Moore, standing to one side of the presentation stage, "I'm super stoked for Sally because she surfed so well through the whole event. Yeah, I'll take it though [laughing], move on to the next event from here and hopefully better my result."
This is Fitzgibbons' third year on Tour. She has a string of high placed results to her name, but a first place finish has eluded her. She has been so close for so long. Standing on the stage you couldn't have knocked the smile off her face with a frying pan.
"It's insane to be standing here with the Big Bell beside me," she gushed, "To have everything finally come together today, and have it happen on the 50th Anniversary is really special. I was feeling good this morning. I knew it'd be a long road to make the final because I'd have to surf four times if I made it all the way. It was definitely a journey. Bells Beach is such a challenge with all the elements. To come out and conquer them and at the end, to ring the Bell it's just, I don't know, wow!"
Fitzgibbons finally took a breath before continuing.
"Bells is one of those waves that you have to adapt to all the conditions and move over to Rincon on the high tide. What I tried to do each heat was overcome those challenges and pick the goods ones."
There are twelve surfers left in the Men's event. Joel Parkinson had been the inform surfer, but Fanning assumed that mantel today. Slater is sitting in the wings watching and goofy footers CJ Hobgood and Wright are lurking. This script has one final chapter, and for at least one surfer, it will be a happy ending.
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH FINAL RESULTS:
1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.77
2:Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.40
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.10 def. Silvana Lima (BRA) 12.60
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 18.37 def Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.60
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Silvana Lima (BRA) 15.57 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 9.60
QF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.34 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 5.90
QF 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 15.00 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 11.44
QF 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 18.56 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 14.53
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 14.50 def. Chelsea Hedges (AUS) 8.50
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 12.50 def. Melanie Bartels (HAW) 12.04
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.60 def. Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 12.47
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 18.83 def. Pauline Ado (FRA) 11.50
ASP WOMEN'S WORLD TITLE TOP 5 (After Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach):
1. Carissa Moore (HAW) 18,000 pts
2. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16,400 pts
3. Tyler Wright (AUS) 13,200 pts
4. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11,700 pts
5. Silvana Lima (BRA) 11,700 pts
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.26, Owen Wright (AUS) 13.84, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 9.14
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.67, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.17, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.04
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.27, Chris Davidson (AUS) 13.37, Tiago Pires (PRT) 11.63
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 19.10, Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.17, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.40
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 5 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 3: Chris Davidson (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 4: Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)