Photo: Taj Burrow rings the Bell in 2007 while Andy Irons congratulates him with a beer.
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, the second of 11 stops on the 2008 ASP World Tour, is the longest-running event in professional surfing history. To ‘ring the bell’ – or win the coveted bell-shaped trophy – is considered one of the sport’s highest honors.
Taj Burrow (AUS), runner-up to the 2007 ASP World Title, took top honors at Bells Beach last year when he beat 3X ASP World Champion Andy Irons (AUS) -who won the event in 2002 and 2003 – in the Final. After finishing 9th in the season opener at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast of Australia, Burrow is eager to repeat and get on a roll.
“I’m so psyched for Bells,” Burrow said. “I want nothing more than to ring that bell back to back, especially after a slow start at Snapper. I want to make up some ground ASAP and Bells is where I plan on doing it.”
Reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) finished second to 8X ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) in the first event of the 2008 season. Despite a great start to his title defense and a tour kick-off fans could not have written better, Fanning is fired up to regain the World No. 1 rating.
“I could have written it better, but it was a great event to start the year,” Fanning joked. “Everyone was surfing so well and it is like the standard has raised another notch. It was a great event for me and I am really excited with the start.”
Fanning will marry fiancée Karissa Dalton this Saturday but come Monday, the newlywed will shift his focus to adding a second Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach trophy to the mantle. Fanning won the event as a wildcard in 2001.
“Yeah, I’m getting married, so I have been a little busy but I still have a lot of time to surf and train and also have fun,” Fanning said. “I always enjoy Bells and really am looking forward to getting down there again. I have good feelings for the event and hope we all get some really good waves. I am sure the level of surfing will be amazing.”
Current World No. 3 Bede Durbidge (AUS) wed his longtime girlfriend Tarryn in February and it appears that married life suits his surfing – he only narrowly lost to Fanning in the semifinals of the Gold Coast event.
“I have settled into married life really well and I’m lucky to have Tarryn because she supports my surfing career 100%,” Durbidge said. “Mick and Karrisa have a great relationship so it’s great to see them getting married.”
Durbidge won the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii last year to finish a career-best World No. 5 on the ASP ratings and secure a high seeding for 2008.
“It was great to finish in the top 5 last year then start this year with a 3rd,” Durbidge said. “I feel my surfing has improved a lot from last year. It definitely gives me confidence being right up there on the ratings and I’m really excited for Bells. I love it down there and I have been going down there every year since I was 15 so I’m looking to put in a strong performance down there.”
Jeremey Flores finished his 2007 rookie year World No. 9, but is currently rated equal 3rd courtesy of a semifinal berth against Slater on the Gold Coast. He leads the charge for a record four Europeans on the 2008 ASP World Tour.
“I’m so happy already with my first result at Snapper,” Flores said, “I’m still very young and I have so much to learn still but I feel like my surfing is improving in many aspects which is positive for the future. I did many juniors event at Bells when I was a kid so I know the wave well, but it’s definitely going to be a hard event. There is so many guys that have so much more experience who are ripping at Bells.”
Slater, who is once again World No. 1 after his win in the first event of the year, has rung the bell twice – in 1994 and in 2006. He went on to win the ASP World Title both years. Slater has not yet confirmed whether or not he will go after a third Bells Beach title next week.
Rookie Aritz Aranburu (EUK) has withdrawn due to injury and will be replaced by Nic Muscroft (AUS). California’s Chris Ward, who pulled out of the first event of the year for personal reasons, is confirmed to compete next week.
The official waiting period for the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach stretches from March 18-29, 2008.