The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, Presented by Bonsoy, Stop No. 4 on the World Surf League (WSL) 2023 Championship Tour (CT), commenced today with Winki Pop providing the world’s best surfers with rippable, three-to-four foot surf to open the prestigious event.
The full day of competition saw the completion of the men’s and women’s Opening Rounds with lots of big scores posted.
Pictured: Reinging 8-Time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) found form today at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Presented by Bonsoy, posting the highest single-wave score of the Opening Round at Winki Pop. Credit: © WSL / Ryder
The stress of the looming Mid-season Cut proved to push some competitors to find success while others fell to the pressure. Current World No. 1 Molly Picklum (AUS) became the first woman to make the Mid-season Cut with her Opening Round win. Tour veteran Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), eight-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), and Final 5 competitor Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) thrived, winning their Opening Round matchups in excellent form, while 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) and Brisa Hennessy (CRC) were sent to the Elimination Round.
Current World No. 1 Molly Picklum Makes the Mid-season Cut
Current World No. 1, Molly Picklum (AUS) secured herself a spot in the second half of the season by winning her Opening Round heat against Macy Callaghan (AUS) and Johanne Defay (FRA). Callaghan started the match strong, earning a 7.17 (out of possible 10) with a critical finishing maneuver. But, Picklum quickly answered back with several explosive turns to earn an excellent 8.00. As time wound down, Tour veteran Defay struggled to find a rhythm and was sent to the Elimination Round. In just her sophomore year on Tour, Picklum is getting closer to a shot at her maiden World Title. “There’s always first-heat nerves, but Winki was providing, and it was just a matter of completing your rides to get the big scores and I’m super happy to open with an excellent score,” said Picklum. “It’s unfortunate to get cut, I’ve been there and I don’t want to do it again so I’m super happy to have made the cut. Final 5, let’s do this!” Five-time World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) is currently sitting right below Picklum on the rankings and is eager to get the yellow Leader jersey back. She notched an important heat win in her Opening Round matchup against Lakey Peterson (USA) and event wildcard Kobie Enright (AUS).
Colapinto, Florence, and Marks Dominate Competition in Opening Round
California’s Griffin Colapinto (USA) looked right at home on the long rights of Winki Pop, posting a near-excellent two-wave total of 15.66 (out of a possible 20) in Heat 2 of the Opening Round. Colapinto’s scoreline included an 8.33 for a massive full-rotation air reverse. His performance was too much for his opponents Maxime Husenot (FRA) and Seth Moniz (HAW), to overcome. Currently sitting at fifth on the world rankings, Colapinto is eyeing a spot in the Rip Curl WSL Finals and a shot at a maiden World Title later this year.
“That was super fun, the waves were really similar to some spots at home in California, so I felt right at home,” Colapinto said. “There was a light sea breeze which helped with the airs, and I’m stoked to make it through with my friend Seth (Moniz). Obviously, the main focus this week is to win the event, but I’m also enjoying time with my friends and having fun. I’m really enjoying all aspects of my time on Tour this year, competition and downtime. I'm just making the most of all of it.”
The last heat of the men’s Opening Round was one of the most action-packed of the day. An in-form John John Florence (HAW) controlled the heat, displacing buckets of water with his signature power turns. Fellow Hawaiian Barron Mamiya and injury replacement Morgan Cibilic (AUS) posted solid scores, but they weren’t enough to catch Florence. As time wound down, Florence posted the second-highest heat total of the men’s Opening Round, an excellent 16.26 (out of a possible 20).
Pictured: Caroline Marks (USA) found some serious form today at Winki Pop. Credit: © WSL / Sloane
Floridian powerhouse Caroline Marks (USA) stamped her authority on the field, posting a massive two-wave total of 15.83 for her trademark backside attack. Competing at Bells for the first time since 2019, Marks dominated her matchup with Isabella Nichols (AUS) and fellow goofy-footer Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA).
Marks has finished equal third in her last two appearances at Bells and hopes to improve on that result this year. Nichols also progressed into the Round of 16 with an impressive performance at Winki Pop, while Weston-Webb was sent to the Elimination Round.
“It feels really nice to get such a good start at this event,” Marks said. I’m really happy to be back at Bells Beach and just Australia in general. It’s been a few years since my last trip, so I’m grateful to be here. I have a really good relationship with this wave; some of my favourite surfers have won this event like Mark Occhilupo. I’m definitely drawing some inspiration from him.”
Men's Wildcards Owen Wright and Xavier Huxtable Thrive
Aussie surfing legend Owen Wright got his last CT event off to a great start, claiming the heat win over reigning World Champion and Bells Winner Filipe Toledo (BRA) and 2023 CT Rookie Ian Gentil (HAW). Wright looked in good rhythm with the long walls of Winki, combining pure lines with fins-free finishes to narrowly edge out his competitors and progress into the Round of 32.
“That felt great to get a heat win straight off the bat,” Wright said. “I’ve had a bit of time out of the jersey but I felt like I just slipped back into competition mode nicely and felt confident, which was good. I’m just so happy to get a win early in my final event. I think in the past at this event I’ve fallen in the Quarterfinals or around there so I’m hoping to surf with less pressure on myself this year and see what I can do as a wildcard.
Another wildcard who was turning heads on Day 1 was Trials winner Xavier Huxtable (AUS) who progressed through his heat in second place behind rankings leader Jack Robinson (AUS). Robinson was unstoppable, throwing multiple airs to comfortably win the heat, leaving Torquay local Huxable to take second over 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA). Slater will have to battle it out in the Elimination Round when competition resumes.
The next call will be made tomorrow morning at 7:15 a.m. AEST for a possible 7:35 a.m. AEST start.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Opening Round Results:
HEAT 1: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 14.50 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 11.43, Carlos Munoz (CRC) 8.54
HEAT 2: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 15.66 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 11.03, Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 10.37
HEAT 3: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.27 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.94, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 10.34
HEAT 4: Dylan Moffat (AUS) 12.33 DEF. Joao Chianca (BRA) 11.67, Matthew McGillivray (RSA) 10.84
HEAT 5: Owen Wright (AUS) 12.84 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.24, Ian Gentil (HAW) 10.36
HEAT 6: Jack Robinson (AUS) 12.56 DEF. Xavier Huxtable (AUS) 11.50, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.60
HEAT 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.64 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.80, Connor O'Leary (AUS) 10.00
HEAT 8: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 14.47 DEF. Jordy Smith (RSA) 12.47, Callum Robson (AUS) 11.93
HEAT 9: Jackson Baker (AUS) 13.00 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 11.37, Rio Waida (INA) 10.60
HEAT 10: Yago Dora (BRA) 13.83 DEF. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 13.67, Jake Marshall (USA) 10.00
HEAT 11: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 16.40 DEF. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.00, Liam O'Brien (AUS) 12.43
HEAT 12: John John Florence (HAW) 16.26 DEF. Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 12.17, Barron Mamiya (HAW) 12.10
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Opening Round Results:
HEAT 1: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 13.07 DEF. Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 11.93, Caitlin Simmers (USA) 11.24
HEAT 2: Molly Picklum (AUS) 13.73 DEF. Macy Callaghan (AUS) 13.50, Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.16
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.33 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 13.66, Kobie Enright (AUS) 12.57
HEAT 4: Caroline Marks (USA) 15.83 DEF. Isabella Nichols (AUS) 13.04, Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 9.40
HEAT 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.57 DEF. Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 13.73, Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.17
HEAT 6: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.16 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 12.06, Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 11.50
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Elimination Round Matchups:
HEAT 1: Callum Robson (AUS) vs. Liam O'Brien (AUS) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
HEAT 2: Rio Waida (INA) vs. Barron Mamiya (HAW) vs. Maxime Huscenot (FRA)
HEAT 3: Connor O'Leary (AUS) vs. Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Carlos Munoz (CRC)
HEAT 4: Matthew McGillivray (RSA) vs. Ian Gentil (HAW) vs. Jake Marshall (USA)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women's Elimination Round Matchups:
HEAT 1: Caitlin Simmers (USA) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRC) vs. Kobie Enright (AUS)
HEAT 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is proudly supported by Rip Curl, Bonsoy, Shiseido, Red Bull, YETI, Surfline, True Surf, Hydralyte, Visit Victoria, Surf Coast Shire, Boost Mobile, Harvey Norman, Bond University, Oakberry, Coopers, GWM, Bailey Ladders, Bioglan, and Apple TV.