All-Star Lineups For Rip Curl & SPC Fruit Pro Launch

SPC Fruit ProRip Curl ProRip Curl GromSearch International FinalBells Beach, Victoria, AustraliaMarch 21-April 1

LIVE WEBCAST & LIVE RIP CURL PRO WEBSITE: www.ripcurl.com and www.aspworldtour.com

All-Star Lineups For Rip Curl & SPC Fruit Pro Launch

THE world’s best surfers launched official proceedings for the 33rd annual Rip Curl Pro and Women’s SPC Fruit Pro, at a well patronised press conference in Melbourne this morning. The waiting periods for both prestigious events start at the famous Bells Beach tomorrow March 22nd, and run through to April 1st.

This morning’s all-star lineup included Foster’s Men’s Tour ratings leader Mick Fanning (AUS), reigning World Champions Andy Irons (HAW) and Sofia Mulanovich (PER), and former six-times women’s World Champion Layne Beachley (AUS), defending event champion Joel Parkinson (AUS), and top Rip Curl team members Nathan Hedge (AUS), Jacqueline Silva (BRZ) and wildcard Jamie O’Brien (HAW).

Before a battery of television cameras and eager journalists and photographers, former Rip Curl Pro champion Mick Fanning fielded questions concerning his remarkable comeback from serious injury to win the opening WCT of the Foster’s Men’s Tour on the Gold Coast earlier this month.

“I honestly didn’t think I’d come back that strong. It was a really painful and crippling injury, but I worked hard in training and my rehabilitation and all the hard work paid off, smiled Fanning.

“I’m really stoked to be back here for the Rip Curl Pro at Bells. Ever since I was a kid I’ve watched guys like Occy (Mark Occhilupo/AUS) blow apart the Bowl, added Fanning, talking of the prime section of the famous Bells wave.

The perpetual Rip Curl Bells trophy sat amongst the surfers on the top table, a rare exception from its formal exhibition in the foyer of Rip Curl’s headquarters in the surf city of Torquay on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

As is professional surfing etiquette, only a winner of the Rip Curl Pro at Bells can ring the highly esteemed trophy.

“I never thought I could win a world title, and certainly not three, but winning the Rip Curl Pro and ringing the Bell is certainly one of the highlights of my career, testified World Champion Andy Irons.

“I was so excited I almost dropped it, added Mark Occhilupo, speaking of hoisting the huge and heavy trophy over his head after winning the event in 1998.

As has been the case since announcing his ‘probable’ retirement from WCT surfing at the end of this season, Occhilupo was again quizzed on his intentions. A win at Bells would help his decision.

“A win at Bells would be a real nice way to finish my career. If I win this event, or any other this season, I think it will help me be satisfied to retire, said Occhilupo, who was also quizzed about his superstitious habits on duplicating everything from eating to shoe wear habits on consecutive winning days.

The ASP’s Most Improved surfer Nathan Hedge, who was injured twice last year, dislocating his shoulder in the final at Teahupoo, as well as at Pipeline, but still climbed from 24th to 7th in the ratings, was the first surfer to arrive in Bells, arriving here mid-last week.

“I’m extremely excited to be back into competition, said Hedge. “The standards are always rising, and it’s great to be in the top bracket as that is happening. There’s no reason not to keep climbing. The sky is the limit!

The women’s WCT contingent are equally keen and excited to be back at Bells for the first time in three years, thanks to the support of SPC Ardmona in sponsoring the SPC Fruit Pro.

“We’re all so thankful to SPC in giving us a second Women’s WCT in Australia. I have been training with Martin Potter and working hard since losing early in the first event of the year, and feel in the right headspace now. I expect go a lot better at Bells, vowed Women’s World Champion Sofia Mulanovich.

“Yes, Sofia has the silverrware we all want, testified Layne Beachley.

“I have three Bells, but I’d like to have four, and we’ll all be chasing Sofia for that world title too, added Beachley.

“I don’t see it as the rest of the women’s Top 17 chasing me — I will still be chasing the world title too, countered Mulanovich.

While the surfers signed posters in Melbourne’s Federation Square after the press conference, the Elastomax 2 Mens Trials and SPC Fruit Trials were being run in tricky 2-3′ conditions at Gunnamatta Beach on Melbourne’s east coast.

Bronte’s Women’s WQS ratings leader Jessi Miley-Dyer, 18, won the remaining spot in the SPC Fruit Pro, beating out Stephanie Gilmore (Kingscliff), Amanda Clegg (Burleigh Heads) and Mizuki Hagiwara (Miyazaki/Japan).

“I love Victoria, and really love Bells and so I really wanted this wildcard, beamed Jessi after her win. “

“This is such a great opportunity for me to just go out and catch a couple of waves at Bells, especially without all the guys added Miley-Dyer. “I really want to be on the WCT tour one day, so to get this contest experience is just unreal.

The Elastomax2 trials were won by former Under16 and Under18 world champion Ben Dunn (Old Bar), who secured a wildcard in the Rip Curl Pro along with second placed Jean da Silva (San Francisco do Sul/Brazil).

Both Dunn and da Silva won all three of their round-robin heats to qualify for the final of the trials. Former three-times world champion Tom Curren (USA) finished third in the trials final, just out of reach of a wildcard, with Kieren Perrow (AUS) who was fourth.

From Paul Sargeant

The Rip Curl Pro is Australia’s longest running professional surfing event and holds a proud place in surfing folklore, stretching back to 1973. The Rip Curl Pro’s status as one of six Victorian Government-designated Hallmark International Sporting Events each year, alongside the Melbourne Formula One and Phillip Island Motorcycle Grand Prix, the Australian Tennis Open, the Melbourne Cup and the AFL Grand Final, is an acknowledgment of its contribution to the state’s rich sporting culture.

The Rip Curl Pro is proudly presented by Deakin University, associated with Surfing Victoria, the Surf Coast Shire Council, the Victorian Government Department of Tourism, Sport & The Commonwealth Games, the Association of Surfing Professionals, and supported by sponsors Telstra, Chupa Chups, National Australia Bank, Falls Creek, Schweppes, Four’n Twenty Pies and Tracks.