Wed, 19 April 2017
An emotional Jordy Smith became the first South African to win the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach - in glassy 6-8 foot surf at Bells to bolster his world title hopes for 2017, writes Spike.
Smith came up against red hot Brazilian Caio Ebelli, who had taken John John Florence out in the semis. In "fattening conditions", as excellent side-line commentator Barton Lynch called the filling in tide, Smith dropped a 7.0 on his first wave in his second consecutive Bells final. He followed up by a great transition-focused series of big hacks and a massive floater that went right on to the sand, which got him a 9.1.
He was lucky not to get injured despite what looked like a face plant straight into the beach. This left Ebelli in a tough situation, but he was also pulling waves out of the bag. With 18 minutes left he still needed a 9.80. Bells was starting to turn it on with big glassy bowls and hollowed out glass on the inside before the wave ended with a big foamy dumper in the shore-break.
Ebelli got a big scoring wave, posting a huge 9.63, which made the big bell-ringing claim by Jordy at the end of the next wave a little premature, until the score dropped! His 9.77 meant that Ebelli now needed a 9.25 to catch his 18.87 heat score. Another wave by Jordy upped the ante to 18.90 and Ebelli found himself needing a 9.28 with three minutes to go.
It was not to be and Jordy became the first South African to win the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, putting him at #2 on the world rankings. He had left it late in his semi-final against Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau when, needing a 7.53 to overtake Lau. However, in the last minute of the heat, he scooped a 7.70 on a set wave.
As the tide filled in, the surfers were pulling crazy dry dock moves right over the sand at the end of the wave in what commentator Martin Potter called a "cutlet crumble" from all the sand that coats your body and gets in all the crevices.
Glassy 6'+ lines were coming through at clean, regular intervals, and the surfers were blasting all over it but with moves where they had to try and transition stylishly through big graceful carves, patient bottom turns, speed lines through the bowl and big off-the-tops.
With six minutes to go, Ebelli pulled out all the stops, patiently waiting for the end section and pulling a huge floater right into the sand at high speed.
Jordy had a confidence in his surfing in pressure situations. A proud moment for South Africa.
“I can’t even believe it -- second last year and now this -- it’s amazing,” Smith said. “I was stoked to have made it into Round 4 and then every heat after that was a bonus. I tried to take it easy and not take things too seriously, as you may have been able to tell from some of my claims in the Final. This is an absolute dream come true. I’ve been working on winning this event for 10 years now and to get it today is incredible.”
I feel like the pieces of the puzzle are coming together this year.
“I wasn’t sure how many opportunities I was going to get with the high tide so I just took every wave I could,” continued Smith. “Once I got the 9, a bit of the pressure dropped and then, sure enough, Caio [Ibelli] kept coming. He is an amazing surfer and has been so on point this event. After a few years of injury and re-building, I feel like the pieces of the puzzle are coming together this year. My family and wife are right behind me and I couldn’t do it without their support.”
Ibelli’s runner-up finish is his career-best result on the elite CT. The 2016 Rookie of the Year showcased a new level to his surfing with powerful, high-risk maneuvers to take out a tough field of challengers in final series. In his first time competing at Bells last season, Ibelli eliminated John John Florence (HAW) in Round 3. In a Semifinal rematch, Ibelli did the same, and moves 19th to 7th on the rankings.
“This trophy is going to look really nice in my house,” Ibelli said, “This has been the best Easter I have ever had. I’m so stoked. The waves and the support at Bells is so amazing. It’s really special. To be in the Final with Jordy Smith, someone I’ve always looked up to, at a perfect wave like Bells is a dream come true for me.”