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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Fri, 6 April 2018

Mick Fanning came agonisingly close to the perfect sendoff to his illustrious surfing career when he took the runners up spot at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach yesterday.

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END OF THE ROAD: A special moment at the end of Fanning's career. Photo WSL / Sloane

Young Brazilian Italo Ferreira, 23, and veteran Australian Stephanie Gilmore, 30, may have won their respective men's and women's events in the second event of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), but it was all about Fanning, who bowed out in cranking 6-8ft surf at the iconic Bells Beach event in its 57th year.

Three-time WSL Champion and four-time Bells winner Fanning celebrated his last CT event after 17 years on Tour and 22 CT victories. The well-loved Aussie’s story came full circle, ending his career in the Finals of the event he first won as a wildcard back in 2001.

“Today was really special,” Fanning said. “I always said I wanted to finish the year up here at Bells. Thanks so much to everyone. It has been incredible to see all the support in Torquay and the support of the fans. This is my 20th year of coming down to Bells Beach. I just want to thank my family for all the support you’ve shown over these years. Thank you to my friends that have flown down and making this so memorable. It’s been an amazing career, and I want to thank everyone. "

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GOODBYE EVERYBODY: I've got to go. Gotta leave you all behind. Photo WSL / Cestari

“It was a very special moment with the crowd, best friends here, and then to just be in the Final with Italo (Ferreira) and to see how much it meant for him actually made me feel a lot better. To all the people surfing in this event, it was so much fun. Seabass, Paddy Gudang, Wilko, Owen -- every time I paddled out, I felt like I was going surfing with a mate, and that was really special. To see in that Final just how much it meant to Italo, that was one of greatest things I’ve seen at Bells, so well done Italo. I am really stoked for you.”

Ferreira played spoiler for Fanning’s fairytale finishFerreira played spoiler for Fanning’s fairytale finish with the first CT win of his career. The 23-year-old was unstoppable, taking down 2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) in the Semifinals, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) in the Quarterfinals, and Filipe Toledo (BRA) in Round 3.

“I can’t believe it,” said Ferreira. “That was such a sick heat. I started slow, but after that it was amazing. Mick (Fanning) is one of my favorite surfers in the world. But wow, I can't believe it. That was unbelievable. I just want to say thank you God and my family and my girlfriend and every guy that has supported me. I’m just so happy that this is my job. I just wanted to make some sick heats. Mick Fanning, he is one of my favorites, he is my hero. Mick is the best competitor, and I just want to say thanks to Mick.”

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REVVING FERREIRA: Italo whips a huge one off the top at Bells Beach. Photo WSL / Sloane

Ferreira’s breakthrough result now vaults him to World No. 1 where he ties with Julian Wilson (AUS) and shares the yellow Jeep Leader Jersey heading into the Margaret River Pro.

“It’s my first win, so I am so happy,” Ferreira continued. “I’ve been working hard over the last few years. I remember my first Final with Filipe (Toledo) in Portugal and it was so close, and now I got it. Last year was hard to me with my injury after the Gold Coast being out for two months. It was terrible, and I just tried to work hard and get better. This is the best feeling.”

Six-time WSL Champion Gilmore joins the likes of Kelly Slater, Mark Richards and Fanning as a four-time Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach winner, a testament to her strength and style in the water.

“It was such an emotional buildup to this moment and it is incredible,” said Gilmore. “I feel like all the focus is on Mick (Fanning), so it doesn’t really matter what happens with the rest of the event -- it was like I could sneak in and get a little ding ding and no one would even care, so it took the pressure off. The most stressful moments of my heats were right when Mick was paddling out for his heat, and it eased the pressure seeing how calm and relaxed he was despite all the pressure on him.”

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BACK TO THE FUTURE: Stephanie Gilmore, 30, looks in peak condition. Photo WSL / Cestari

Gilmore’s 27th CT win did not come easy as Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) battled until the final buzzer. The hard-fought Final ended with Weston-Webb falling just 0.23 points short. In her 12 years of competing at Bells, Gilmore has dominated. Her worst result is a 5th. She puts herself in a great position to hunt down her seventh World Title.

“Tatiana (Weston-Webb) has been on fire this whole event,” continued Gilmore. “All the goofy-footers have been -- I can’t believe it. You never really think about the goofies, but with Tatiana, you can tell that she has found her confidence and her strength. It’s so impressive to have her step up.”

Weston-Webb, 21, was the surfer to beat at Bells. She posted the highest scores, including a near-perfect 9.23 in Round 2. Her vertical, backhand surfing looked to be invincible, but unfortunately, she could not overtake the 30-year-old veteran. Weston-Webb’s second-place finish moves her up to 5th place on the Jeep Leaderboard, tied with Keely Andrew (AUS).

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WALL TO WALL: Gilmoore mixes up her attack with another power hack. Photo WSL / Sloane

2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) was eliminated by compatriot Ferreira in the second men’s Semifinal. The two Brazilian superstars unleashed radical maneuvers, but Medina could not overcome Ferreira’s heat score of a 16.00. The third place result is Medina’s best finish at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. He now moves up six places to 7th on the Jeep Rankings.

Patrick Gudauskas (USA) fell to event favorite Fanning in Semifinal 1. The Californian was unable to combat Fanning’s two excellent 8-point rides and exits in Equal 3rd in his first year back on the CT since 2013. This is the 32-year-old’s best result at Bells. Previously, Gudauskas eliminated Michel Bourez (PYF) in the first Quarterfinal.

In only the second event of her rookie year, 16-year-old Caroline Marks (USA) is making a name for herself with stunning results on the elite tour. Marks exits with an incredible 3rd place result after losing to eventual winner Gilmore in the Semifinals. Marks is the youngest surfer to qualify for the elite CT and now rockets up to 3rd on the Jeep Leaderboard. Not only is she ousting Title contenders in her rookie debut, but she is also making a run for her own World Title.

Stop 3 is the final event of the Australian leg, the Margaret River Pro, from April 11 - 22, 2018.

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Final
1 - Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.66
2 - Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.83

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Semifinal
SF 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.50 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 9.67
SF 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.00 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.10

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Quarterfinal Results
QF 1: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 11.67 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.44
QF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.77 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 9.33
QF 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 17.86 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.50
QF 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.73 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 15.00

Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Final
1 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.17
2 - Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 13.94

Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Semifinal
SF 1: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 13.00 def. Silvana Lima (BRA) 5.10
SF 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 17.00 def. Caroline Marks (USA) 15.44

2018 WSL Men's CT Jeep Leaderboard
1 - Julian Wilson (AUS) 11,665 pts
1 - Italo Ferreira (BRA) 11,665 pts
3 - Mick Fanning (AUS) 11,500 pts
4 - Owen Wright (AUS) 9,490 pts
4 - Michel Bourez (PYF) 9,940 pts

2018 WSL Women's CT Jeep Leaderboard
1 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14,745 pts
2 - Lakey Peterson (USA) 13,085 pts
3 - Caroline Marks (USA) 10,830 pts
4 - Carissa Moore (HAW) 9,490 pts
5 - Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 9,190 pts
5 - Keely Andrew (AUS) 9,190 pts

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