Day One Of The Rip Curl Pro At Bells Completed

The Rip Curl Pro commenced with round one heats at Bells Beach. The prestigious event on the Foster’s men’s ASP World Championship Tournament (WCT) kicked off at 7:30am (local time) and is scheduled to run throughout the day.

Windblown 3-4 ft (1-1.3m) waves were on offer this morning, with sets linking up through the ‘Bowl’ section. As the higher tide filled in, the ‘Rincon’ section directly below the cliff face came into affect. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks was among the strong crowd soaking up the action.

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Reigning two-times consecutive Rip Curl Pro and world champion Andy Irons (Kauai, HAW) commenced his 2004 event campaign with a win. The Kauaian posted two seven plus rides on his opening waves and held a comfortable lead throughout. Brazilian Victor Ribas and Rip Curl wildcard Ben Dunn (Old Bar, NSW, AUS) filled the minor placings, and will now contest the dreaded ‘losers’ second round, while Irons progressed directly to the third.

“Stoked to get the contest started, began Irons, after being mobbed by autograph hunters. “It’s early days, but I heard the (swell) map is pretty small, so to get the first heat out of the way feels really good. I’ve got some awesome boards right now and feel really fit. It’s just a matter of catching the right waves and being really patient, not getting ahead of myself.

“I love it, he added, of the enthusiasts on the beach. “It’s nice when people admire what you do and congratulate you after a good heat. It’s awesome to see the kids all stoked, so yeah, it’s a good feeling.

Last year’s Rip Curl Pro runner-up Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, AUS) proved the day’s top scorer, with a 9.0 and 8.67 in his combined 17.67 tally. Opponent and WCT replacement Troy Brooks was also a standout, landing an aerial 360 maneuver one wave and then a trademark ‘Superman’ air the next, but he and Brazilian Paulo Moura were still relegated to the ‘losers’ round.

“I really didn’t want to lose, admitted Parkinson. “‘Brooko’ is a pretty gnarly competitor to have and I’m glad I got the better of him. I saw the air reverse he did, and knew he’d get a big score. Luckily I did enough and got that 8.67 at the end. I finished runner-up last year and got the small Bell (trophy), but I can’t think of anything better than to be on stage ringing that gigantic Bell at the end.

Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) defeated 2001 world champ CJ Hobgood (FL, USA) and local Surf Dive ‘N’ Ski Trials winner Adam Robertson (Portland, VIC). Slater opened with a commanding 8.0 ride – following smooth carves through the ‘Rincon’ section and even a reverse 360, then posted another 8.5 towards the end. Following two recent wins on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) in Australian, the Floridian hopes to continue the trend on the WCT – where ratings points really count.

“My first round one win this year, as CJ got me last contest, so it was good to get him back, explained Slater. “I haven’t ridden this board in about a month, so it felt good to get a couple of waves on it before my heat. Then I caught some good ones in it, and had a lead while they didn’t have much room to work with.

“Yeah, I had two wins, two weeks in a row, he continued of recent form. “I don’t normally do ‘QS events, but I was in Sydney and kept my contest practice going, made (US) twenty grand and had a good time doing it.

Three-time Rip Curl Pro winner and 2000 world champ Sunny Garcia (HAW) overcame his year as couch potato – following major knee reconstructive surgery – to attack his opening ride for an 8.67 score. He then locked in another 8.07 to hold advantage over fellow Hawaiian Kalani Robb and Florida’s Cory Lopez. Having last surfed a heat during the 2003 tournament, his performance this morning – highlighted by trademark forehand gouges – was definitely fair warning to the rest of the top 45 he’s back and able.

“That was the game plan, explaineGarcia. “I’m still out of shape and my legs not strong, so fortunately I got the two best waves in the first 10-minutes. I had a really bad headache though. I think it was a combination of being really nervous and a cup of coffee beforehand, which is really uncharacteristic for me. I got a migraine, but I guess that was the most strenuous exercise I’ve done in over a year. It was nice to beat Cory and Kalani, as I hang out with those guys all the time and respect their surfing. So for me to comeback and beat them is a boost for my ego and confidence.

World #3 Taj Burrow (West AUS) controlled his heat over Brazilian Guilherme Herdy and wildcard Zane Harrison (Sunshine Coast, AUS). The 25-year-old picked off a couple of strong rides early on, showing his determination to redeem an equal ninth finish during the season opener last month.

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“Really happy to get through, as I was a bit disappointed with the Gold Coast, admitted Burrow. “I’m just trying to make some ground on the other guys. Everyone is hungry to step up the ratings, and the second event is pretty important. I’m just hoping to make some ground on ‘Lowey’ and Andy up top.

Brazilian Neco Padaratz continued his great run of late, following a big win last week in the 6-Star WQS at Margaret River, Western Australia. Despite trailing world #6 Kieren Perrow (Byron Bay, AUS) until the final minute this morning, the 27-year-old earned a sought after 5.6 last ride to nail it.

“There wasn’t many waves, so I just tried to wait for the good ones and do as many turns as I could, explained Padaratz. “I knew it would come down to my last wave, and thankfully one came. Bells is one of the events I most want to win in my life. I’ve been working towards that for the last five years, and I feel it’s a contest I can really do well in, as the waves suits my surfing. Hopefully God can give me a little hand out here this time.

Other standouts today included Californian Taylor Knox and Australians Lee Winkler (Coffs Harbour), 2001 Rip Curl Pro winner Mick Fanning (Gold Coast), Darren O’Rafferty (Port Macquarie), Beau Emerton (Gold Coast) and Jake Paterson (Yallingup), as well as Brazilian Marcelo Nunes.

Paterson defeated Californian Tim Curran and local Victorian surfer Steve Hughes (Fairhaven), who was been granted a start in the Rip Curl Pro main event following the withdrawal of Chris Davidson (Narrabeen, AUS). ‘Davo’ severely cut his foot last week in Western Australia and underwent microsurgery, allowing the Surf Dive ‘N’ Ski third place-getter’s dream to come true.

Current ratings leader Mick Lowe (Windang, NSW) was beaten this morning by fellow Australian Luke Egan (Gold Coast) and WCT newcomer Bruce Irons (Kauai, HAW). The powerful goofy footer failed to post any high scores, and will now have to contest the dreaded ‘losers’ second round against wildcard Hughes.

World #23 Nathan Hedge (Narrabeen, AUS) caught the first wave of the 2004 Rip Curl Pro, and despite only posting a low 3.17, went on to collect a great 8.5 next ride and advance directly to round three.

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Rip Curl Pro Round One Heats (1st>Rnd3; 2nd, 3rd>Rnd2)
H1: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 15.0; Pat O’Connell (USA) 12.7; Dean Morrison (AUS) 10.23
H2: Sunny Garcia (HAW) 16.74; Kalani Robb (HAW) 15.97; Cory Lopez (USA) 12.17
H3: Luke Egan (AUS) 12.03; Bruce Irons (HAW) 11.67; Mick Lowe (AUS) 8.33
H4: Taylor Knox (USA) 14.27; Eric Rebiere (FRA) 10.1; Richie Lovett (AUS) 9.5
H5: Neco Padaratz (BRA) 13.1; Kieren Perrow (AUS) 12.87; Greg Emslie (ZAF) 11.73
H6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.67; Troy Brooks (AUS) 15.77; Paulo Moura (BRA) 8.43
H7: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.0; Luke Hitchings (AUS) 9.27; Peterson Rosa (BRA) 8.94
H8: Andy Irons (HAW) 14.67; Victor Ribas (BRA) 11.67; Ben Dunn (AUS) 9.07
H9: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.5; CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.37; Adam Robertson (AUS) 13.53
H10: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.73; Zane Harrison (AUS) 11.83; Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 9.6
H11: Jake Paterson (AUS) 15.76; Tim Curran (USA) 13.93; Steve Hughes (AUS) 9.3
H12: Lee Winkler (AUS) 15.57; Toby Martin (AUS) 11.74; Phil MacDonald (AUS) 11.53
H13: Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 14.33; Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.5; Armando Daltro (BRA) 10.33
H14: Danny Wills (AUS) 13.4; Trent Munro (AUS) 11.0; Nathan Webster (AUS) 9.1
H15: Beau Emerton (AUS) 15.5; Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 14.73; Mick Campbell (AUS) 13.93
H16: Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 15.0; Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 14.5; Tom Whitaker (AUS) 8.84 j Burrow (AUS) 15.73; Zane Harrison (AUS) 11.83; Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 9.6
H11: Jake Paterson (AUS) 15.76; Tim Curran (USA) 13.93; Steve Hughes (AUS) 9.3
H12: Lee Winkler (AUS) 15.57; Toby Martin (AUS) 11.74; Phil MacDonald (AUS) 11.53
H13: Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 14.33; Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.5; Armando Daltro (BRA) 10.33
H14: Danny Wills (AUS) 13.4; Trent Munro (AUS) 11.0; Nathan Webster (AUS) 9.1
H15: Beau Emerton (AUS) 15.5; Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 14.73; Mick Campbell (AUS) 13.93
H16: Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 15.0; Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 14.5; Tom Whitaker (AUS) 8.84