No rest for the weary. It was a quick turnaround after Margaret River went down to the wire on the final two days of the waiting period as Bells Beach then got started immediately on day one.
Right on the heels of the Aussie leg’s second act, part three opened up Tuesday with the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. The women had the water to themselves and were able to occupy the spotlight with some big numbers as the waves began pumping late in the day. A pair of perennial threats who haven’t had ideal starts to 2017 are the standouts so far.
Carissa Moore put the rest of the field on notice as she went all John John Florence in round two. After failing to find a solid backup wave in her opening heat, Moore took on Ella Williams in a round two elimination matchup. To say the pairing was one-sided would be a grand understatement, mostly because of how comfortable, powerful and stylish Moore was on right after right that rolled through the lineup.
When her clinic was over, Moore threw away an 8.33 and an 8.67 because her final two efforts earned a 9.80 and a 9.33 from the judges. The 19.13 total was maybe the top heat performance of the young season and Moore seems ready to return to the title picture. The start to her season has been underwhelming with a pair of fifth-place results. But she looks like the surfer who took down three straight Bells championships (2013-15) and she should give current points leaders Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons a major challenge this week.
Defending world champion Tyler Wright also showed why she’s likely to throw her hat back in the ring. Wright made the Margaret River final after a fifth place on the Gold Coast, so it’s not as if she’s been notching throwaways. But she had by far Tuesday’s best opening-round showing with her 17.00 total and cruised into round three more easily than anyone. Other than Moore, everyone was finding the lineup a little tricky while unable to locate the proper launch pad. Wright seemed to know exactly how to approach the wave from the start.
It was a solid day for Tatiana Weston-Webb, who won her first-round heat to jump into round three. Tati has only a pair of ninth-place results to open the season, so escaping the madness that can occur in round two is a great way to avoid what would have been a very disappointing Aussie leg. I wouldn’t be shocked to see her run deep in this event.
Weston-Webb started quickly and held off Silvana Lima and Johanne Defay with her 13.34 total. One more heat win in either round three or four would guarantee Tati’s best result of 2017, but she’s certainly eyeing more than just a slow upward trajectory.
Unfortunately there won’t be a chance for Malia Manuel to move up the rankings due to the knee injury she suffered at Margaret River. After hurting herself in a round five win, Manuel withdrew in the quarterfinals and did not enter Bells Beach. The injury has magnified what could prove to be an even more important Qualifying Series win at the Australian Open, since she is going to be slipping a bit further down the rankings with more uncertainty moving forward.
Ringing the championship bell is always a prestigious action and not many women have had the pleasure, thanks to Moore’s recent success. They all have their work cut out for them if anyone plans to keep Moore away from that podium for the fourth time.