BELLS BEACH, Aus. — On arrival at Bells Beach, Australia, on first light yesterday, organizers of the Rip Curl Pro were overcome by a sense of déjà vu as they promptly made the decision to pack the Rip Curl semi-trailer and shift the 35-year-old event nearly three hours southwest to Johanna.
Johanna, the site of the event yesterday, was almost identical today with very rippable three-foot-plus waves being fanned by an offshore wind.
And while the action was outstanding from those competing in the remaining heats of Round 3 (six of 16 heats were finished Monday) none were more head turning than that of Foster’s ASP World Tour number one Mick Fanning, who completely blazed a trail in his defeat of young Brazilian Bernardo Miranda.
Fanning notched up the highest score of the day — an 18.66 out of 20 — and he gave credit to being at home in the conditions after spending extra time at the break free-surfing over the past few days.
Fanning’s best ride was a 9.83 out of 10. On the wave he pulled into a rare barrel and whipped some huge frontside gouges.
Looking further into the event Fanning realized he has his work cut out for him as he will have to face off against some of the sport’s most formidable and hungry competitors if he wishes to win the event — including the Foster’s ASP World Tour’s returnee Mick Campbell.
Also excelling in the sunny peaks of Johanna was reigning and eight-time world champion Kelly Slater.
He cruised through his heat against wildcard Nic Muscroft locking in a high score of 9.0 out of 10.0 after flowing through some eye-pleasing re-entries. He then was on somewhat of a roll.
This is the only record Slater has yet to beat and he is poised in equal place with Curren as he also has 33 wins.
Slater will now take on Travis Logie in Round 4, a surfer whom Slater holds in high regard after Logie almost upset his world title campaign in 2005 when he beat Slater in Brazil.
For Kaua‘i’s Andy Irons, the day was also a success after he downed talented Brazilian Rod-rigo Dornelles.
Irons, whose start to the year was plagued by illness, leading to a poor result on the Gold Coast, is back to his best form and is focused to go all the way.
“It’s very important to get a result here,” said Irons. “There are only 10 events this year and my first result is a throwaway, so for me it’s very important. If I don’t get to a couple of finals or even the quarters or better then it could be possible that a shot for the title is out of the question because the good guys have already done well.”
Irons has already rung the “Bell” twice, but confirmed that to claim a third title would be a real honor. He knows however he has to focus on the job at hand.
“I would love to ring a Bell,” continued Irons. “It would be a dream, but there’s a lot of hard work ahead. I can’t really think about that too much right now.”