It seems like summer may have snuck up on us over the past few days. Temperatures are rising, trade winds are becoming more predictable, the surf has gone flat and Hanalei is still packed. But while we creep toward the end of the school year and the beginning of longer days, it’s actually the middle of autumn down under at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia. The opening round has concluded in both the men’s and women’s draws and some very important second-round heats await Kauai’s competitors.
Malia Manuel opened the women’s event by taking on South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag and local Laura Enever. All three settled for medium scores through much of the heat and Manuel held the lead with three minutes remaining, but Buitendag used priority well and coasted into a wave that allowed only two turns, but earned a 5.43 to push her just ahead for the heat win. The score was a bit surprising, at least to my eyes, but it surpassed the 5.01 she needed and will move Buitendag into round three.
Manuel will now head into the elimination second round and have to take on Oahu’s Alessa Quizon, who started her contest against Tatiana Weston-Webb and Stephanie Gilmore.
That trio had better conditions to work with and Tati got off to a quick start, getting into a big wave and showing a committed turn to close it out for a 7.10 score just 90 seconds into the heat. That put some pressure on Quizon and the defending world champ, but Gilmore bided her time and responded at the 20-minute mark. She started with a few wraps and finished with a big bottom turn and a tricky landing for an 8.43 score to move into the lead. Tati crept back in front and tried to stay busy, but Gilmore’s 7.07 backup with 7 minutes left pushed her well into the lead. Needing an 8.41 with just 1 minute left, Weston-Webb made use of her priority but the wave stayed a bit fat and she couldn’t finish on her feet.
Tati will face off with Enever in the first heat of round two. Four of Hawaii’s five wahine were relegated to round two as Coco Ho also lost her opener to Lakey Peterson. Ho will face Aussie Dimity Stoyle in an elimination heat.
Carissa Moore was the only Hawaii surfer to move directly to round three, along with Gilmore, Buitendag, Peterson, Sally Fitzgibbons and Johanne Defay, who upset Tyler Wright.
On the men’s side, after falling to Kelly Slater in Tuesday’s first-round heat, Sebastian Zietz will go against Brazilian rookie Italo Ferreira in their elimination second-round matchup. Ferreira is off to a solid start in his first year on tour, having already reached the fifth round at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast.
While the first portion of the men’s opening round featured some notable upsets, the rest was mostly by the book. Nat Young did advance ahead of Michel Bourez and Owen Wright was able to top Filipe Toledo, who currently has the yellow jersey, but Aussies Joel Parkinson, Josh Kerr and Julian Wilson all held serve to skip the second round.
John John Florence and Mason Ho were Hawaii’s two winners in round one. Freddy Patacchia, who lost to Ho, will now face Kai Otton in the second round. Dusty Payne lost to Young and will take on Toledo for a spot in round three. Keanu Asing lost in Jordy Smith’s heat and will face off with Bourez.
A lay day was called Thursday so today could be the start of round two. Bells Beach in Victoria is 21 hours ahead of Hawaiian Standard Time, so this morning’s official call should come at 11 a.m. HT (8 a.m. local time). All action can be seen live on Oceanic Surf Channels 250 and 1250.