The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by Snickers is preparing for the greatest assemblage of surfing talent in history to descend upon the tiny Victorian hamlet of Torquay, as the world’s best surfers look to lay waste to the pristine righthanders of the region.
Event No. 2 of 10 on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is the highly-anticipated follows up to an exciting season opener, and with 15 ASP World Titles represented amongst the ASP Top 45, this year’s event promises to be a showdown for the ages, running from March 30 through April 10, 2010.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, reigning two-time ASP World Champion, is the running favourite this season following a sensational assault on the back half of 2009. However, after an uncharacteristic Equal 9th place finish at the opening event of the season on the Gold Coast, the Australian natural-footer will look to rebound at the upcoming Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
“It was a disappointing start because I expect a lot of myself on the Gold Coast," Fanning said. “I was happy with the way I was surfing. I just had a heat where I failed to lock in a solid second score. I felt really strong going into the first event but sometimes that's not enough. Every year, the standard of surfing on tour gets better. I got beaten by Kai Otton, one of the most solid competitors there is, so there's no shame in that. Now I've got to now focus at getting back on track at Bells."
A former event winner at Bells Beach (as a wildcard in 2001), and now a two-time ASP World Champion, Fanning understands that expectations upon him are different in 2010, but with over a decade of competitive experience at the venue under his belt, the 28-year-old will be looking to consolidate amidst familiar surroundings.
“There's definitely more pressure mainly because of the media focus and expectations people have but I've been in this position before and I feel like I'm now better equipped mentally to deal with those pressures now," Fanning said. “I've been going to Bells and competing there since I was 16-years old. I'm really comfortable with the wave and I feel my surfing suits the spot. Hopefully we get some solid clean swells."
Before Fanning can lay claim to this season’s Rip Curl “Bell", he’ll have to contend with the greatest assemblage of surfing talent in the history of the sport.
“There are a number of guys on tour that have a style that really suits Bells," Fanning said. “None more so than former winners Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson. If I had to throw another name out it would be Jordy Smith – he's lethal on a righthand pointbreak and coming off a second place finish in the first event, I got a feeling he'll be one to watch."
Taj Burrow (AUS), 31, current ASP World No. 1 and former winner at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach (2007), has been in unstoppable form since December, claiming three victories in three attempts at Pipeline, Burleigh Heads and Snapper Rocks.
“I haven’t actually changed my approach that much at all," Burrow said. “The training I’ve been doing hasn’t changed one bit. I’m just feeling really confident at the moment and not putting too much pressure on myself. I always do my best when I’m actually excited to surf a heat, so I’ve just been trying to replicate how I feel when I go free surfing."
Burrow’s newfound consistency has several pundits alluring to the possibility of a maiden ASP World Title clinching, but the progressive icon is cautious when considering 2010’s outcome.
“It’s too early in the year for pressure," Burrow said. “The first few events are always about getting into competing again and finding some momentum. I’m not feeling any pressure at all. Bells is a hard wave to surf at times - it changes a lot with the tide. You could be surfing six foot bowl or three foot Rincon on the same day. I’ve always really liked surfing Bells – it is a wave with a lot of open face to play around with and the atmosphere with the crowd is unbelievable. Ringing the Bell in 2007 was something I had always wanted to do."
Andy Irons (HAW), 31, former three-time ASP World Champion, has returned to full-time competition following a sabbatical in 2009. Finishing Equal 17th on the Gold Coast, the ferocious Hawaiian has gotten a taste for the new blood on tour and is prepared to do battle at Bells Beach.
“The surfing has really progressed," Irons said. “The new generation of kids on tour surf amazing. I’m stoked to be back in with the mix that's for sure."
A former back-to-back winner at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach (2002, 2003), Irons re-defined progressive surfing at the famed break earlier in the decade, and will look to invoke a return to form in 2010.
“I’m working on getting my boards dialed," Irons said. “I ordered a couple of Simon Andersons and his boards have done well with me at Bells in the previous years. I have won at Johanna and at Bells Bowl before – they are both really fun powerful waves. The bowl at low tide is super rippable. Hopefully we have good swell. I'm really looking forward to surfing the event."
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach pres. By Snickers will be webcast LIVE via www.live.ripcurl.com
The Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach presented by Ford Fiesta, featuring the ASP Top 17, will run in conjunction with the Rip Curl Pro from March 30 through April 5, 2010.
ASP WORLD TOUR TOP 5 (Heading Into Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach):
1 – Taj Burrow (AUS) 10000 pts
2 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8000 pts
3 – Bobby Martinez (USA) 6500 pts
3 – Dane Reynolds (USA) 6500 pts
5 – Joel Parkinson (AUS) 5250 pts
5 – Bede Durbidge (AUS) 5250 pts
5 – Adriano de Souza (BRA) 5250 pts
5 – Kai Otton (AUS) 5250 pts