Moore, Fanning look to ring Bells yet again

Gimmicks are good. If nothing else, they can provide an identity. Today’s WSL Championship Tour contest might have the best gimmick of the season.

The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach opens in Victoria, Australia with every competitor hoping to be the one to ring the famous bell trophy at the end of the event. Bells has had some amazing surf this winter (or summer in Oz), but it hasn’t always been the most consistent location during contest time. It’s not the biggest or most ferocious wave, but it’s got that bell.

Only two people have rung it the past two years. Mick Fanning is eyeing his third consecutive Bells championship, while Moore is in search of her fourth straight. After relatively disappointing starts to their respective campaigns, this is a great spot for each to jump back to the top of the CT standings.

Moore sets such a high standard for herself that only reaching the semifinals at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast can indeed seem like a disappointment. If she’s to pick up her fourth straight Bells title, she’ll begin her quest in round one against Keely Andrew and Hawaii’s Brisa Hennessy.

This is the CT debut for Hennessy, who is still just 16 years old. The Kailua native lists Moore as her favorite surfer, so it’s only fitting that her first experience on the world tour comes against her idol.

Making finals day is the important factor in securing re-qualification and both Malia Manuel and Tatiana Weston-Webb started the season with that in mind, each reaching the quarterfinals on the Gold Coast. Manuel now goes up against Sally Fitzgibbons and Alessa Quizon, who are each looking to better their opening performances. Fitzgibbons was a surprising upset victim in round two against Bronte Macaulay and Quizon lost at the buzzer to Weston-Webb.

Tati rode that victory into the quarters and now opens this event against Macaulay and Johanne Defay. She has still never lost a round two heat in her CT career, which allowed her to pick up valuable points at every stop and remain in the Top 10 throughout her 2015 rookie season. The win over Quizon was almost her first taste of that fate, but her last-second score avoided the dreaded 13th.

Tyler Wright currently possesses the yellow jersey after winning on the Gold Coast and she’ll match up with Coco Ho and Sage Erickson in round one.

As we await the grand opening of Fit Lab Kauai on April 1, co-founder Sebastian Zietz gets the call again for his second CT invite of the season. Seabass looked great on day one on the Gold Coast, but he ran into the buzzsaw that was Stu Kennedy in round five. Injuries have opened up a spot for Zietz once again at Bells, where he’ll be facing a pair of Aussie legends in Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow.

Mason Ho also gets another call at Bells where he, along with Keanu Asing, will take on defending champ Fanning in round one. With Dusty Payne in the field and John John Florence in his usual spot, the five Hawaii surfers competing bumps up from just the two tour regulars we have this season.

Current points leader Matt Wilkinson will duel with Kolohe Andino, who sits in second place after losing to Wilko in the Gold Coast final.

Some waves are due to reach Bells today, though it’s a fairly small forecast. If the call is made, the year’s second CT event should start to develop the story lines we’ll be talking about all season.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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