The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, Presented by Bonsoy, Stop No. 4 on the World Surf League (WSL) 2023 Championship Tour (CT), has seen another massive day of competition with the completion of the men’s and women’s Elimination Rounds and all 16 heats of the men’s Round of 32. The world’s best battled wild conditions, with Bells Beach offering up solid, wind-affected surf in the four-to-six foot range. It was an emotional day of competition, with Australian hero Owen Wright’s last heat in a CT jersey, and event wildcard Xavier Huxtable (AUS) taking down compatriot and current World No. 1, Jack Robinson (AUS).
Heat 3 of the Round of 32 was a bittersweet one for the Australian contingent as World Title hopeful Ethan Ewing (AUS) overcame event wildcard Owen Wright (AUS) in what was his last appearance in a CT competition jersey. Wright ends his career as a four-time CT event winner, perennial World Title threat, and the only surfer in history to score two perfect heats in one event.
On his way to victory, Ewing looked to be in good form, posting an excellent 8.10 (out of a possible 10) to end the possibility of a fairytale finish for his compatriot. Despite the early exit, Wright was happy to end his career in front of a beach full of adoring fans.
“That was a really special time out there,” Wright said. “I feel like I had a great time in my heat, I got my two waves, and although I didn’t take it out, I couldn’t help but claim it when I finished; I was so happy. This place feels like home to me, and I had a lot of friends and family down here so I couldn’t think of a better way to end this chapter. I’ve had a wild career, which I’m so grateful for. So many tough times and celebrations and the journey. To finish it all here, walking up these steps, hi-fiving all my buddies that I’ve surfed with, and getting chaired up the beach by my two mates was super rad. I’m just super grateful for this moment. I feel like I’ve blinked, and it’s over. It’s been 12 years but this Tour is such a blur–I’ve just loved it.”
Ewing will now face three-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) in Heat 2 of the Round of 16
“It was really special to share that heat with Owen Wright,” Ewing said. “He’s had a great career and we’ve had quite a few heats together. In my first heat on the CT, he smashed me and we’ve had a few more since then so it was really special to surf his last heat with him and I wish him a really good retirement.”
The last heat of the day saw Griffin Colapinto (USA) put on an outstanding performance, setting the highest two-wave heat total of the event so far, an excellent 17.00 (out of a possible 20). Colapinto looks to be the man to beat as he found a flow with the Bells Bowl to dominate his matchup with Liam O’Brien (AUS).
Former event winner John John Florence (HAW) claimed the second-highest heat total of the day, a 15.83, in his Round of 32 matchup with tour veteran Kolohe Andino (USA). Florence looked composed and effortless in the unruly, open-ocean waves, laying down his signature power carves. He will now face Michael Rodrigues (BRA) in the Round of 16.
“It’s definitely super tricky out there and hard to know which ones are going to double up,” Florence said. “Once you’re out there, you can see them as these big walls of water, so I was just looking for them. The wind is going with the waves, so although it’s strong onshore, there are clean faces. I hate coming up against Kolohe; we’ve had so many heats against each other over the years, and he’s become one of my best friends. I know he’s in a hard spot right now, so it’s a bummer. I had to try and block it out because I want to win, so it was hard.”
Connor O’Leary (AUS) was also a standout performer on the second day of competition, posting a solid heat total of 15.73, which included an excellent 8.23 single-ride score (out of a possible 10). O’Leary’s vertical and aggressive backside attack was strong enough to take down Bells standout Nat Young(USA). The Round of 16 berth is an important one for O’Leary, who is currently sitting just two spots above the Mid-season Cut line.
In the biggest upset of the day, Torquay local and Trials winner Xavier Huxtable (AUS) took out current No. 1 Jack Robinson (AUS). Huxtable’s local knowledge proved to be priceless as he found waves with opportunity in the difficult conditions. He earned a solid 7.00 with one explosive turn right under the lip on a large Bells wall and backed it up with a 6.43 to solidify the win over Robinson. The early-round loss is uncharted territory for Robinson, who has had an incredible run the first three events of the season. Today marks the first time Robinson hasn’t made it out of the Round of 32 since Stop No. 3 of the 2022 CT in Portugal.
Heat 2 of the women’s Elimination Round was stacked with reigning Bells event winner and two-time World champion Tyler Wright (AUS), Final 5 competitors Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), and Johanne Defay (FRA). Current No. 4 Wright emerged victorious after completing several critical maneuvers, with current No. 5 Weston-Webb advancing behind her. Unfortunately for Defay, it was an early loss in her first event of the year since recovering from an injury.
Another Final 5 competitor, Brisa Hennessy (CRC), faced a similar fate in Elimination Round 2, Heat 1. Hennessy came into the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach sitting in 8th on the rankings, and in search of a result that would guarantee her safety heading into the Mid-season Cut. She came up against an in-form Kobie Enright (AUS), who earned a spot in the event by winning the Trials, and current World No. 2 Caitlin Simmers (USA). Simmers looked in rhythm with the Bells Bowl, claiming a solid heat win, while Enright found some clean, open faces to progress in the second spot. Hennessy struggled to find a decent ride and will now shift her focus to the Western Australia Margaret River Pro in order to claim a spot in the back half of the season.
Currently sitting below the Mid-season Cut line and tied for 24th, 11X World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) and Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) were surfing to keep their spots on Tour as they went head-to-head in the Round of 32. They both opened with solid six-point rides, with Slater getting the better of Igarashi. But, just after the halfway mark, Igarashi threw an electrifying turn to earn a 7.83 and turn the heat on GOAT to take the crucial win.
“The nerves were there, but everytime I surf against Kelly, I get nervous,” Igarashi said. “I feel like he had things going his way and that I was chasing him a bit. Eventually, I got that set that set up nicely and I think that’s when things started going my way. There’s not much I can do about the Cut and who is making heats, I can just focus on my heat with Kelly. I don’t know how many more heats I’ll get with him. I was definitely really nervous so I’m glad I made it and I’m glad I get to surf the Bowl more.”
Michael Rodrigues (BRA) was another competitor with everything on the line, and caused a major upset in the Round of 32, taking down 2019 WSL World Champion and 2019 Bells winner Italo Ferreira (BRA). Rodrigues’s sharp, frontside, rail game was the perfect match for the Bells Bowl. He now prepares for a head-to-head match with event standout Florence.
Maxime Huscenot (FRA) found himself a spot in the Round of 16 for the first time in his rookie season, claiming an impressive win over Bells standout and current World No. 4 Caio Ibelli (BRA). Huscenot still has a long way to go in order to move up the rankings and save his spot on Tour for 2023. He currently sits eight spots below the Cut line in 32nd place.
For highlights from today’s competition at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Presented by Bonsoy, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.
The next call will be tomorrow, Monday, April 10, at 7:15 a.m. AEST for a possible 7:35 a.m. start.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round of 32 Results:
HEAT 1: Joao Chianca (BRA) 13.94 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.76
HEAT 2: Matthew McGillivray (RSA) 11.77 DEF. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 11.60
HEAT 3: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 13.83 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 11.66
HEAT 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 10.67 DEF. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 7.33
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 9.27 DEF. Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 8.43
HEAT 6: Jordy Smith (RSA) 9.33 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 8.50
HEAT 7: Yago Dora (BRA) 15.17 DEF. Dylan Moffat (AUS) 11.30
HEAT 8: Jackson Baker (AUS) 13.67 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 11.16
HEAT 9: Xavier Huxtable (AUS) 13.43 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 10.07
HEAT 10: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.73 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 11.76
HEAT 11: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 10.10 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 9.83
HEAT 12: John John Florence (HAW) 15.83 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.50
HEAT 13: Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 13.50 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 7.44
HEAT 14: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 14.37 DEF. Ian Gentil (HAW) 12.60
HEAT 15: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.93 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.43
HEAT 16: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 17.00 DEF. Liam O’Brien (AUS) 11.10
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Elimination Round Results:
HEAT 1: Liam O’Brien (AUS) 15.17 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.16, Callum Robson (AUS) 8.07
HEAT 2: Barron Mamiya (HAW) 11.93 DEF. Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 9.77, Rio Waida (INA) 8.94
HEAT 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.00 DEF. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.74, Carlos Munoz (CRC) 10.40
HEAT 4: Matthew McGillivray (RSA) 13.33 DEF. Ian Gentil (HAW) 13.24, Jake Marshall (USA) 9.97
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Elimination Round Results:
HEAT 1: Caitlin Simmers (USA) 9.66 DEF. Kobie Enright (AUS) 6.30, Brisa Hennessy (CRC) 5.50
HEAT 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.90 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 9.66, Johanne Defay (FRA) 5.57
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Round of 16 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Caitlin Simmers (USA) vs. Isabella Nichols (AUS)
HEAT 2: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Macy Callaghan (AUS)
HEAT 3: Molly Picklum (AUS) vs. Sophie McCulloch (AUS)
HEAT 4: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
HEAT 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Kobie Enright (AUS)
HEAT 6: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW)
HEAT 7: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)
HEAT 8: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round of 16 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Joao Chianca (BRA) vs. Matthew McGillivray (RSA)
HEAT 2: Ethan Ewing (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
HEAT 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (RSA)
HEAT 4: Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Jackson Baker (AUS)
HEAT 5: Xavier Huxtable (AUS) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
HEAT 6: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) vs. John John Florence (HAW)
HEAT 7: Maxime Huscenot (FRA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
HEAT 8: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
More available at WorldSurfLeague.com.
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach holds a competition window through April 14, 2023. Once called ON, the competition will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL’s YouTube channel, and the free WSL app. Check out more ways to watch from the WSL’s broadcast partners. For fans watching in Brazil, coverage of the competition’s Quarterfinals and beyond will continue exclusively on WorldSurfLeague.com and SporTV.
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.
More available at WorldSurfLeague.com.