Matt Back On Track

April 3, 2024
MATT ATTACKS: McGillivray has magically resurrected his WSL season with this result. Photo WSL / Hughes

US rookie Cole Houshmand defeated Matthew McGillivray in the semi-finals to sneak past Californian compatriot Griffin Colapinto to win the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Presented by Bonsoy today.

In the women's event, winner Caitlin Simmers (US) and runner up Johanne Defay (France) moved further in front of the field with only 65 points separating their total 27,355 vs 27,290 points accumulated over four events of the World Surf League (WSL) 2024 Championship Tour (CT). Aussie Molly Piklum lies a distant third with 23,020 points. Simmers (2) and Defay (1) share three wins this year.

Earlier in the weekend, former Bells winner Jordy Smith's (RSA) run came to an end in the Round of 32 when he lost to Caio Ibelli (BRA). The South African's strong start to the season means that he has officially made the Mid-season Cut.

Big Easter weekend crowds turned out for the final two days of the event in small 2-4ft with the final contested in onshore sloppy 2-4ft surf today. The Quarterfinals saw former CT competitor and Injury Replacement Morgan Cibilic (AUS) do battle with good friend McGillivray, with both surfers taking solid wins in their Round of 16 matchups at alternative venue Winkipop.

It couldn't have been closer in the matchup, with McGillivray sneaking ahead of Cibilic by 0.1 of a point. This came after he overcame Connor O'Leary (NZL) in the Round of 32, and then managed to hold off an in-form Samuel Pupo (BRA) in the Round of 16. However, McGillivray came unstuck against eventual champion Houshmand. The South African managed a decent 6.17 on his second wave, but could not find another good score, falling to the rookie 13.14 to 7.77. But the equal fifth pushes McGillivray up eight places and well above the Mid Season cut line, with a good chance he makes it (he needs at least a 17th at Margaret River).

CAITLIN SIMMERS: She's ahead, just, of Johanne Defay on top of the rankings before Margaret River. Photo WSL / Hughes

But Houshmand's win against his good friend catapults him 18 places up the rankings into 8th, and he officially makes the Mid Season cut after an epic run that saw a last-minute victory over three-time WSL World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) in the Round of 32, then a commanding victory over Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) in the Round of 16.

“Doing well at Bells has always been a goal of mine,” Houshmand said. “It’s an iconic event with so much history and a wave that I think suits my surfing, so I’m stoked to be here on Finals Day. I really need a big result as well, so I’m hoping to make a few more heats. For me, that heat [against Medina] was more of a dream than winning a comp."

Matt Back On Track

"There were literally interviews of me when I was like ten or eleven talking about how Gabby is my favorite surfer, so to have a heat with someone like that at the highest level is a dream for me, and to come out on top is another check on the box.”

On his way to the Round of 16, Barron Mamayia (HAW) ended 11-time World Champ Kelly Slater's run in what is likely to be his last competitive appearance at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, 32 years after his first. Slater looked in good touch on the 30th anniversary of his first Bells win, but it was Mamiya who was able to find the best wave of the match-up, leaving Slater to be eliminated and shift his focus to the Western Australia Margaret River Pro.

I’m trying to enjoy these events, enjoy the people, the friendships, and the memories. - The GOAT
KING COLE: The US Rookie storms 18 spots up the WSL rankings to assure he makes the Mid Season cut. Photo WSL / Hughes

“This is likely my last Bells. If I don’t win at Margaret’s, this will be my last one,” said Slater. “I’m just trying to enjoy it and have fun. Coming down to Bells is always magical. I’ve been coming for decades. It was my first event as a full-time competitor on the world Tour. Some of the most memorable ones were when I rang the Bell. To have a Bell at your house is an honor. I was fortunate enough to win four. I did want to do well in this event."

"I’m trying to enjoy these events, enjoy the people, the friendships, and the memories. Reading all the names that have won here, a lot of them being my heroes, all the greats in surfing have won this event. I’ll enjoy Margarets for what it is, and I’m not gonna try to push it too much. I’m super appreciative of this life I’ve had. This whole career has been really fun. We’ll see, though. I’ll pitch out for a couple of wildcards."