BELLS BEACH, Victoria/Australia (Monday, April 18, 2011) – Tomorrow marks the commencement of the 2011 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by Ford Ranger and Ford Fiesta and the 50th Anniversary of competitive surfing at Bells.
The world's best surfers have descended on the small Victorian town of Torquay for the second stop on the 2011 ASP World Title season.
Kelly Slater (USA), 39, reigning 10-time ASP World Champion and defending four-time Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach winner, celebrated the historic spirit of the event at today's press conference, recounting his childhood memories of Bells.
"As a kid in the States I saw a lot of film of this event," Slater said. "I got an idea of what the wave was like and that it was like surfing in an arena. I thought of it like two gladiators battling with fans watching from the cliffs. I remember watching Tom Curren and Occy’s (Mark Occhilupo heats, and I couldn't wait to come here."
Slater responded to queries regarding his campaign for an 11th ASP World Title in characteristic fashion.
"If I wasn’t hungry to win an 11th ASP World Title, then I wouldn’t be here," Slater said.
Slater will take on Kai Otton (AUS), 31, and Championship Moves Trials winner Adam Robertson in Round 1 of competition.
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 23, reigning four-time ASP Women's World Champion and defending three-time Rip Curl Women's Bells Beach winner, who opened the 2011 season with an uncharacteristic Quarterfinal loss at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, knows she's got a challenge on her hands for the 2011 ASP Women's World Title.
“I fell behind on the Gold Coast and I’ve got some work to do to catch-up,” Gilmore said. "I have always really enjoyed my time here at Bells Beach. I've had some great results here, but it’s going to be a hard task to get that Bell again. I’m just really excited because the forecast looks fantastic."
Gilmore will face Courtney Conlogue (AUS), 18, and Alana Blanchard (HAW), 20, in the opening round of competition.
Taj Burrow (AUS), 32, current No. 2 in the hunt for the 2011 ASP World Title, rang the Bell in 2007, and after finishing Runner-Up at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, is one of the favourites heading into this event.
"This event gets more special every year," Burrow said. "I couldn't believe when I saw it's been going for 50 years. I had a lot of fun here last year surfing at few different spots like Winki and Johanna. Everyone in the event wants to ring that Bell. I’ve got one big Bell and two small ones, so I look forward to trying to get up there again.”
Burrow will battle Adam Melling (AUS), 26, and Josh Kerr (AUS), 27, in the opening round of competition.
Owen Wright (AUS), 21, 2010 ASP Rookie of the Year, is hoping to be the first goofy-footer to win the Rip Curl Pro Bells since Mark Occhilupo back in 1998.
“The bigger the waves are the better it is for the backsiders," Wright said. "I remember watching Occy out there when I was a grom, it was the biggest wave I’ve ever seen out here and he did 3 or 4 of the biggest turns I’ve ever seen. I think he got a 10-point-ride for it. I’d love to get some waves like that and do some turns like that.”
Wright will take on Heitor Alves (BRA), 29, and Bobby Martinez (USA), 28, in his Round 1 match at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
Owen's sister and current No. 2 in the ASP Women's World Title Race Tyler Wright (AUS), 17, may be a rookie on tour, but she knows Bells better than most.
“I’ve had a lot of Pro Juniors and Grom Search heats out at Bells," said Tyler. "I don’t think you can ever really figure out Bells, but I feel good out there. There’s some swell on the way, so it’s going to be really exciting to see what goes down."
Wright will face Coco Ho (HAW), 19, and Pauline Ado (FRA), 19, in the opening round of competition.
Coastalwatch, official surf forecasters for the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, are calling for a new 3-4 foot groundswell with clean mostly offshore to begin building on Wednesday. On Thursday, a stronger building trend with wave heights increasing throughout the day before peaking at 4-6 foot on Friday, gradually easing off into the weekend, but still 3-5 foot surf until mid-next week.
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by FORD will take place at Victoria's pristine Bells Beach from April 19 – 30, 2011 and be webcast LIVE via live.ripcurl.com and broadcast live on Fuel TV in Australia and ESPN in Brazil.
Running in conjunction with the women's event, the ASP Top 34 will contest the Rip Curl Pro presented by Ford Ranger.
For more information, log onto aspworldtour.com.
RIPCURL PRO BELLS BEACHROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 2:Taj Burrow (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 3:Owen Wright (AUS), Heitor Alves (BRA), Bobby Martinez (USA)
Heat 4:Mick Fanning (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT), Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Heat 5:Jordy Smith (ZAF), Dusty Payne (HAW), Stu Kennedy (AUS)
Heat 6:Kelly Slater (USA), Kai Otton (AUS), Adam Robertson (AUS)
Heat 7:Jeremy Flores (FRA), Taylor Knox (USA), Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 8:Michel Bourez (PYF), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 9:Damien Hobgood (USA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Daniel Ross (AUS)
Heat 10:Bede Durbidge (AUS), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 11:Adriano de Souza (BRA), Chris Davidson (AUS), Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 12:Brett Simpson (USA), Jadson Andre (BRA), Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1:Chelsea Hedges (AUS), Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Rebecca Woods (AUS)
Heat 2:Silvana Lima (BRA), Laura Enever (AUS), Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS)
Heat 3:Carissa Moore (HAW), Jacqueline Silva (BRA), Bethany Hamilton (HAW)
Heat 4:Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Alana Blanchard (HAW)
Heat 5:Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Paige Hareb (NZL), Melanie Bartels (HAW)
Heat 6:Coco Ho (HAW), Tyler Wright (AUS), Pauline Ado (FRA)