The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Presented by Bonsoy, Stop No. 4 on the World Surf League (WSL) 2023 Championship Tour (CT), has continued today with the completion of the women’s Round of 16 and an epic Heritage Heat between Tom Curren and Mark Occhilupo. Tough conditions continued at Bells Beach, with competitors getting to work in strong onshore winds and surf in the three-to-four-foot range.
Two-time World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) has officially made the Mid-season Cut by securing a place in the Quarterfinals. Moore made light work of the tough onshore conditions, posting the highest two-wave total of the Round of 16, a 14.06 (out of possible 20), to defeat Trials winner Kobie Enright (AUS). Moore will now have to face two-time World Champion Tyler Wright (AUS), who took out Gabriela Bryan (HAW) on her way to the Quarterfinals. Wright got the better of Moore in the Finals at Bells last year and is hoping to do so once again to defend her title.
Reigning eight-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) will once again head into the Bells Quarterfinals, a round she has never missed in her surfing career. The Round of 16 win over Lakey Peterson (USA) was a necessary one for Gilmore, who came into the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach sitting below the Mid-season Cut line. Peterson seemed to be in control of the entire matchup, with Gilmore in need of a backup score. But, with only minutes left on the clock, Gilmore took off on a set and laid into three smooth carves, which was enough to earn her the lead and the heat win.
“I couldn’t really find my feet out there,” Gilmore said. “And Lakey (Peterson) is pretty much a local here, so I knew it was going to be a tough heat. We are pretty much next to each other on the rankings, so I’m so glad to make it through that heat and into the Quarterfinals; that’s a big result for me.”
Several rising stars of the CT found themselves with spots in the Quarterfinals after commendable matchups against dangerous competitors today.
The opening heat of the day saw Isabella Nichols (AUS) claim a much-needed win over CT Rookie and current World No. 2 Caitlin Simmers (USA). Nichols was in a good rhythm on the Bells Bowl, continuously finding herself on set waves to post a two-wave total of 13.67 and easily progress into the Quarterfinals. Today marks the first time Nichols has progressed through the Round of 16 in 2023 and her first time in the Quarterfinals at Bells Beach. It couldn’t have come at a better time as she looks to move out of 15th place on the rankings and above the Mid-season Cut line.
“I’m relieved to make it past the Round of 16,” Nichols said. “I love this place and have really hoped for a result here. It’s all about picking the right wave here today. It’s victory at sea conditions, and really hard to find the right ones. I’m just relieved that I put together a heat that I’m happy with as it’s been a while. In Portugal, I decided I wanted to let go and have fun, and I feel like I’m in my zone now, and I’m excited to see how my next two events go.”
Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) overcame a seasoned competitor and past event winner, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), in the Round of 16. Utilizing her powerful technique, Sakura Johnson tied Moore for the highest single-wave score of the day, a 7.33.
Current No. 1, Molly Picklum (AUS), is showing no signs of slowing down as she has secured herself yet another Quarterfinals appearance after winning her Round of 16 matchup with rookie Sophie McCulloch (AUS). She will now have to face Sakura Johnson in the Quarterfinals.
In one of the upsets of the day, Matthew McGillivray (RSA) took down current World No. 2, Joao Chianca (BRA), in the first heat of the men’s Round of 16. This was a significant win for McGillivray, who currently sits right above the Mid-season Cut line.
In a showdown of two of surfing’s biggest legends, Tom Curren (USA) and Mark “Occy” Occhilupo (AUS) paddled out at Bells once again to settle their long-time rivalry. Curren opened the heat strong, demonstrating his timeless style and earning 7.53. But, Occy’s powerful backhand attack could not be denied. He hammered one massive closeout hit to post an excellent 8.00, then backed it up with a mid-range score for a number of snaps. As time wound down, Curren was left chasing a score, and Occy claimed his second Heritage Heat victory in a row.
“I had an early surf and thought that the conditions would really suit Tom because he always made conditions like this look really good,” Occhilupo said. “And then he got a 7.60, and I knew not much has changed with Tom. I don’t think I rode the right board, although it did feel nice on that one turn. It was tricky out there, but to share a heritage heat with Tom and have all these people on the beach cheering for us, I’m stoked.”
For highlights from today’s competition at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Presented by Bonsoy, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Occy vs. Curren Heritage Heat Results:
HEAT 1: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 13.50 DEF. Tom Curren (USA) 12.84
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Isabella Nichols (AUS) 13.67 DEF. Caitlin Simmers (USA) 6.87
HEAT 2: Caroline Marks (USA) 12.33 DEF. Macy Callaghan (AUS) 10.07
HEAT 3: Molly Picklum (AUS) 8.70 DEF. Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 7.93
HEAT 4: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 11.73 DEF. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.66
HEAT 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.06 DEF. Kobie Enright (AUS) 11.23
HEAT 6: Tyler Wright (AUS) 12.17 DEF. Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 10.10
HEAT 7: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 9.36 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 9.23
HEAT 8: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.20 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 11.00
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round of 16 Results:
HEAT 1: Matthew McGillivray (RSA) 10.43 DEF. Joao Chianca (BRA) 9.90
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round of 16 Matchups (Heats 2-8):
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)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Isabella Nichols (AUS) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)
HEAT 2: Molly Picklum (AUS) vs. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW)
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
HEAT 4: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
More available at WorldSurfLeague.com.