The Rip Curl Pro was full of drama today as classic Bells Beach conditions greeted the world’s best surfers. Round three of the event — part of the Foster’s men’s ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) — was completed, as well as three heats from the fourth this afternoon.
Crisp offshore winds and clean 4-5ft (1.5m) waves were are on offer this morning, lining up beautifully through the famed ‘Bowl’ section. As the tide filled in conditions deteriorated, but good 3ft (1m) surf remained at ‘Rincon’.
Leading the quarterfinal charge this afternoon was last year’s Rip Curl Pro runner-up Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, AUS). The world #5 accounted for France’s Eric Rebiere in round three, then dominated fellow Australian Mick Campbell (Port Macquarie, NSW). ‘Parko’ waited patiently for superior rides and executed a series of forehand snaps and carves to earn a 9.1 and solid win.
“Two contests in a row I’ve had ‘Cambo’ and he’s the most radical competitor, said Parkinson. “Into the quarters though and I live to fight another day. All I want to do is ring a Bell (trophy), so I’m stoked to be still going.
2001 Rip Curl Pro winner Mick Fanning unleashed an awesome attack against WCT replacement Troy Brooks, then continued the tend over Brazilian Guilherme Herdy in round four. The world #4 collected a near-perfect 9.6 this morning, and despite varied conditions, raced ahead of Herdy to secure his anticipated quarterfinal berth against Parkinson.
“Should be fun and I’ll just treat him like anyone else, reasoned Fanning. “I’m stoked to get a result after my bad one on the Goldy (last WCT event). Hopefully it doesn’t stop here.
Toby Martin (Dee Why) then secured his best result to date, eliminating world #10 Dean Morrison (Gold Coast) and world #11 Jake Paterson (Yallingup, WA) in the day’s final clash. The 30-year-old created an early lead against the West Australian and ultimately progressed into his first WCT quarterfinal.
“Pretty massive, acknowledged Martin of the result. “Jake’s one of the toughest competitors, and I’m over the moon to be in the quarterfinals at Bells. The gloves are on, so let’s go. I’ve got nothing to lose.
Earlier today, reigning two-time consecutive event and ASP world champion Andy Irons (Kauai, HAW) displayed awesome form. The Kauaian opened with the best single score of the event and near-perfect 9.67, and then backed this with another 8.83 for the highest overall tally of 18.5-points to eliminate wildcard Ben Dunn (Old Bar, AUS). Irons will now meet former world #2 Luke Egan (Gold Coast), who also collected a near-perfect 9.67 to beat fellow Aussie Richie Lovett (Manly).
“That was a perfect start for me, began Irons of his 9.67 ride. “It’s an awesome Easter Sunday and the waves are perfect. He’s (Dunn) an awesome surfer with a lot of potential.
Six-time world champ Kelly Slater (FL, USA) was another standout, defeating Surf Dive ‘N’ Ski Trials winner and local Victorian Adam Robertson. The Floridian fell a couple of times and broke his surfboard toward the end of the exchange, but had already locked in a 9.23 and solid lead.
“I actually had food poisoning really bad yesterday, so was feeling weak and fell on my first one, explained Slater. “Overall I had a pretty high heat score, but I feel if I get a little more strength and don’t fall, there’s the possibility of scoring much higher.
Slater will meet patriotic Australian Nathan Hedge (Narrabeen) in round four, after the goofy footer accounted for 2003 World Qualifying Series (WQS) winner Neco Padaratz (Florianopolis, BRA) for a crowd pleasing result.
“It’s always pretty intense against Neco, said Hedge. “I’ve just got to play it smart against Kelly. I had a heat against him here last year and got a bit nervous. Nothing is sweeter than revenge, so that’s what I’ll be going for.
Three-time Rip Curl Pro winnerr and 2000 world champ Sunny Garcia (HAW) was carried from the water’s edge, suffering what appeared to be a severe migraine headache or pinched nerve in his neck today. The Hawaiian was actually leading Californian Taylor Knox in round three, but with 10-minutes left was forced to withdraw and received immediate medical attention before being rushed to Geelong Hospital. Having spent the past 12-months out of action following major knee reconstruction, the 2004 Rip Curl Pro marked his comeback tournament.
Knox, meanwhile, remained in the lineup unsure of his good friend’s condition. At the one-minute mark he posted a 6.33 to advance, then ran to Garcia’s side.
“I have never seen Sunny in that much pain, explained Knox. “It’s not like he twisted his knee, he really hurt himself and it was scary. He told me after his first wave he did a snap and something triggered in his neck. I think he severely pinched a nerve and it’s shooting straight up into his head and giving him the migraine of all migraines. I had a lot of thoughts running through my head out there, but mainly that my friend was in pain.
In other news, 1998 event and ’99 world champion Mark Occhilupo (Gold Coast, AUS) snagged a last minute wave to overcome Brazilian Raoni Monteiro. The powerful goofy trailed for the majority, but eventually paddled further up the point and found a needed 6.33 ride. He’ll face Knox in round four.
Californian Pat O’Connell knocked current ratings leader Michael Lowe (Windang, NSW, AUS) out of the Rip Curl Pro. Lowe held a slender lead during the inconsistent heat, before his opponent disappeared inside the tube and then emerged for an 8.57.
“When I saw the surf this morning I was like ‘yeah’, and said to (fellow competitor) Tim Curran it looked possible to get tubed, recalled O’Connell. “He said he’d dive in the bushes headfirst if I did, so I’m going to make him do it now (laughs).
Rip Curl Pro Round Three Heats (1st>Rnd4; 2nd=17th receives US$4,225)
H1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.33 def. Eric Rebiere (FRA) 9.6
H2: Michael Campbell (AUS) 16.33 def. Victor Ribas (BRA) 12.9
H3: Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 17.0 def. Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 15.57
H4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.1 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 9.33
H5: Toby Martin (AUS) 11.83 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 9.5
H6: Jake Paterson (AUS) 15.74 def. Beau Emerton (AUS) 15.23
H7: Luke Egan (AUS) 16.67 def. Richard Lovett (AUS) 10.17
H8: Andy Irons (AUS) 18.5 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 8.5
H9: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.73 def. Adam Robertson (AUS) 13.5
H10: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 16.37 def. Neco Padaratz (BRA) 14.57
H11: Pat O’Connell (USA) 14.07 def. Michael Lowe (AUS) 12.0
H12: Daniel Wills (AUS) 17.1 def. Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 10.67
H13: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.0 def. Luke Hitchings (AUS) 13.03
H14: Paulo Moura (BRA) 12.33 def. Lee Winkler (AUS) 11.27
H15: Taylor Knox (USA) 11.83 def. Sunny Garcia (HAW) 11.24
H16: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 12.0 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 11.66
Round Four (1st>Quarterfinals; 2nd=9th, receives US$5,000)
H1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.8 def. Mick Campbell (AUS) 11.5
H2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.67 def. Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 6.27
H3: Toby Martin (AUS) 13.5 def. Jake Paterson (AUS) 11.6