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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Tue, 27 March 2018

South Africans will be glued to the live stream of the second stop on the WSL Championship Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, which starts tonight 10pm ZA time.

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CONTENDERS: Fanning with Jordy, Wright, Peterson and Florence. Photo WSL / Cestari

For starters, they have officially doubled their representation on the CT, and will be rooting for perrenial contender at Bells Jordy Smith and newcomer Michael February. Jordy has finished 2nd or 3rd many times leading up to his commanding win last year in cranking surf. Round 1 will see a 2017 final re-match as Smith takes on last year’s runner-up Caio Ibelli (BRA) and Californian Patrick Gudauskas (USA).

SA fans will also be hoping for the best from their Cape Town rookie MFeb, who replaces 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (and three-time Bells winner) after his injury withdrawal. Mikey will surf the rest of the 2018 CT season as a replacement for Mick Fanning, and is up in the first heat of Round One.

Bells will be bittersweet for Fanning, the three-time WSL Champion and four-time event winner, who ends his competitive career at the place where it all began. Maybe it will end the way it started in 2001. Seventeen years ago, he first rang the coveted bell after receiving a wild card entry. The next year, 2002, he finished Rookie of the Year, winning the Billabong Pro at Jeffrey's Bay, after earning himself a place on tour as World Qualifying Series (WQS) Champion.

Mikey can take note of that.

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GOO'BYE FANNING: He begins and ends his career at Bells Beach. Photo WSL / Cestari

Fanning matches up with Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and 2018 CT Rookie Jesse Mendes (BRA) in Round One. Bells is celebrating its 57th year and runs from March 28 to April 8 (Easter this year), as tradition has it.

“I really love Bells and how pretty this place is with the cliffs and surroundings,” Fanning said. “I also really love the history of this event and how the traditional landowners have so many amazing stories. There are also so many moments in surfing folklore from this place that it just feels special to be here. I first came here in 1998, and now 20 years later, I’m coming here for my last event -- I’ve come full circle. It’s my last event, but definitely not my last time here at Bells, I’ll be surfing here for a long time to come.”

For Jordy, it's going to be a bid to claim a back-to-back win. “I’m going to do everything I was doing last year, and some. We’ve got an incredible pool of great surfers here, so you need to focus on what you can control and not put too many expectations on yourself. This is a right-hand point like what I grew up surfing, so I feel at home and ready to go. It’s sad to see Mick Fanning go, but he’s done so much for our sport. I really hope I can get a heat with him here. Hopefully, we can meet in the Final!”

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DEFENDING CHAMP: Jordy is hunting for back-to-back wins here. Photo WSL / Cestari

Reigning two-time WSL World Champion John John Florence (HAW) is ready for redemption after his shock Round 2 elimination on the Gold Coast. Florence has never made a Final at Bells but thinks it’s time he gets his name on the most iconic trophy in professional surfing.

Lakey Peterson (USA) comes into the second stop of the 2018 CT as the Jeep Ratings Leader for the first time in her career. After a breakout season in 2017, the 23-year-old has a genuine shot at the title and will be a real threat when competition kicks off at Bells. The fact that the Californian earned a solid 3rd place result at this event last year puts her in a prime position to capture her second CT win of the year and strengthen her World Title campaign.

“My fiancé [Thomas Allan] lives about one minute from here, so I’m enjoying being a half local,” Peterson said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time here recently and have a lot of support crew around me.”

Current Jeep Ratings Leader Julian Wilson (AUS) is also fresh off a victory at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and is keen to continue his run towards a maiden World Title in 2018.

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TOUGH TWO: Peterson and Wright are top contenders here. Photo WSL / Cestari

Reigning two-time WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) has yet to find success at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach but will be on the hunt in 2018. Known for her aggressive forehand attack, the big open walls of the Bells Bowl suit Wright to a tee. She will be one to watch over the Easter Weekend as she comes up against Malia Manuel (HAW) and Paige Hareb (NZL) in Heat 4 of Round 1.

“Bells Beach is such a special place in surfing, so it’s great to be back,” Wright said.

Courtney Conlogue (USA), the two-time, defending event winner, has withdrawnCourtney Conlogue (USA), the two-time, defending event winner, has withdrawn from the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach event due to a foot injury sustained earlier this month. The 2017 World Title contender will continue to assess her injury in the lead up to the Margaret River Pro next month. She will be replaced by Macy Callaghan (AUS), who will make her second appearance as an injury replacement on the 2018 CT. The 2016 World Junior Champion missed out on qualification for the CT by 1 heat at the end of last season and will be keen to make her mark among the world’s best surfers.

Yesterday, the Trials took place in pumping surf at the Bells Bowl and was taken out by Phillip Island’s Carl Wright (AUS), who after 10 years of attempts has found himself with a spot on the big stage. Kobie Enright (AUS) took out the women’s Trials to surf in her first ever CT event, while young-gun Mikey McDonagh (AUS) took the Rip Curl Trials win for his 2018 event entry.

Event organizers will convene at 8:00 a.m. AEDT tomorrow (10pm tonight ZA) to assess the conditions and determine if the Rip Curl Pro will get underway for its opening day.

Surfline, WSL forecast partner, is calling for: The event window starts off slow, but then a solid SW swell moves in for Fri/Sat, and with favorable conditions for the most part. More decent size swells stacking up in the longer range.

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 1 Matchups:
 Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Griffin Colapinto (USA), Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS), Conner Coffin (USA), Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Italo Ferreira (BRA), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW), Tomas Hermes (BRA), Mikey McDonagh (AUS)
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS), Joan Duru (FRA), Carl Wright (AUS)
Heat 7: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 8: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 9: Kolohe Andino (USA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Jesse Mendes (BRA)

Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 1: Carissa Moore (HAW), Sage Erickson (USA), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Keely Andrew (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Silvana Lima (BRA), Kobie Enright (AUS)
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW), Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 5: Lakey Peterson (USA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 6: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Johanne Defay (FRA), Caroline Marks (USA)

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