The women began their day as the sun sank behind the cliffs at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach on Tuesday afternoon. The long period swell again drew picturesque lines along the horizon, but despite looking perfect, the 4 to 6-foot waves proved wily.
The final two heats of the day saw Kiwis Sarah Mason and Paige Hareb blow the opposition out of the water. The wind tapered off as Hareb and Californian rookie Sage Erickson started up heat five. Hareb banked turn after backside turn, easily racking up an 8.0 and a 6.0 for the win.
"It's nice to get through a heat," Hareb said. "It's still pretty bumpy out there. I was gripping my toes in my wax, but it's glassing off and there's some fun ones. I think this is one of my favorite contests and I kind of like this wave, so hopefully, I can keep getting through heats and keep surfing it."
Under an Easter egg sky, fellow Kiwi, Sarah Mason pocketed a 17.34, the highest total of the day. The 16-year-old, who's currently sponsorless, rocked the sixth and final heat of the day: blowing her tail out, slicing up the face, and, frankly, just showing off. She opened with an 8.17 and finished with a 9.17, leaving France's Pauline Ado in a combo situation.
A pair of 6-foot sets mowed over the Bowl just as the first heat of the round hit the water earlier in the day, and Coco Ho jumped on one of the monsters straight away. The wave looked truly behemoth behind Ho, who demonstrated some nice rail work and popped a couple of fin wafts. She took full advantage of the priority system, dropping in on Australian Tour vet, Bec Woods and weaving all the way in to the sand. Ho took the heat with a total of 14.66.
Hawaiian rookie Malia Manuel netted the second-highest heat total of round two: 14.87. She opened up strong with a 6.17. Brazil's Jacqueline Silva responded by smashing the lip and scoring a solid 5.67, but, unfortunately, very little after that. Meanwhile, Manuel executed her snaps and carves with a brilliant combo of zest and fluidity.
"There are so many faces to Bells," Manuel said. "The Bowl is an interesting wave to figure out, but I'm happy there were enough waves for the two of us. I think [round three] will be a good round. No one loses out completely, so it's kind of like a go-for-it round."
Wildcard Nikki Van Dijk gave former Bells winner and current world No. one Steph Gilmore a run for her money as she immediately wrangled an eight-pointer. Heat three had a tough time with the bumpy conditions: both surfers caught a few rails; Gilmore even went for a quick bodysurf. Van Dijk completed a pretty epic floater and some powerful cutties, but Gilmore claimed victory and the right to compete in round three.
"It's super tricky. Just watching the guys' heats, they were struggling and you've got to really time your maneuvers to perfection--otherwise it just goes, 'Pfffft,' all over the shop. But, I managed to get just enough to get through to round three, the no losers round, which is cool, but at the same time, I don't know about that," Gilmore said with a laugh. "[With an extra person in the water and no priority,] you lose that extra bit of control, but I guess it makes it more playful. It's good for the spectators, having the girls out there going for it."
"This is a lot different than surfing at Snapper," she continues. "You feel like you've got a little extra weight with wetsuits, the water's slow, and you're always trying to use different sorts of equipment, but at the same time, you just want to use something that you know. There are so many elements that come into play down here."
Van Dijk was hoping for a better result, but relished the opportunity to surf against Gilmore. "It's crazy, being 17 and being out there with a world champion," she said. "I think I was frothing too hard. Last time, I beat her at Margaret River and I was just over the moon, so that kind of carried through, and I was a bit nervous. It's all experience for me this year and I had nothing to lose. It's so much fun."
Coastal Watch says the surf will be pumping through the weekend, so we're hoping for some go-for-broke round three action tomorrow.
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Coco Ho (HAW) 14.66 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 11.74
Heat 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 14.87 def. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 6.67
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.33 def. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 11.23
Heat 4: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 13.27 def. Justine Dupont (FRA) 11.64
Heat 5: Paige Hareb (NZL) 14.00 def. Sage Erickson (USA) 12.17
Heat 6: Sarah Mason (NZL) 17.34 def. Pauline Ado (FRA) 12.20
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Tyler Wright (AUS), Laura Enever (AUS), Sarah Mason (NZL)
Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Paige Hareb (NZL), Malia Manuel (HAW)
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW), Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Lakey Peterson (USA)