BELLS BEACH, Victoria/Australia (Friday, April 15, 2011) – The world's best female surfers are poised to return to the competitive singlet with the second stop on the 2011 ASP Women's World Title season, the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach presented by Ford Fiesta, from 19 – 25, 2011.
With a fresh crop of talent injected into the ASP Top 17 over the past two seasons, this year's ASP Women's World Title race is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested on record.
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 23, reigning four-time ASP Women's World Champion and defending Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach winner, suffered an uncharacteristic Quarterfinal loss in the opening event of the season on the Gold Coast, relinquishing her ASP World No. 1 spot for the first time September of 2008.
"The Gold Coast event was obviously a bit disappointing for me in terms of results but I felt like I wasn't at 100% so I was happy with the effort in finishing 5th," Gilmore said. "I feel like my wrist is much stronger now and I've been putting time in with my shaper and working on my equipment. Hopefully that will transfer to an improved performance at Bells."
A three-time past champion of the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach (2007, 2008, 2010), Gilmore is the event favorite and will look to utilize her stylish and powerful forehand assault on the Bells Beach righthand canvas.
"I love the vibe down at Bells," Gilmore said. "You never know what you're going to get in terms of waves and weather and I guess that keeps everything interesting. I've had a good run there over the past few years and hopefully we can get some good surf there this season."
Gilmore's campaign for a fifth consecutive ASP Women's World Title this year will be made much more difficult by current ASP Women's World No. 1 Carissa Moore (HAW), 18, perennial threat Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 20, lethal rookie Tyler Wright (AUS), 17, and the remainder of the ASP Top 17.
"All the girls are ripping these days and there are no easy heats," Gilmore said. "That much was apparent up on the Gold Coast and it's an exciting time for women's surfing. The level is being pushed by everyone and I'm just going to go out there and try to have fun."
Bethany Hamilton (HAW), 20, has been awarded the wildcard into the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach where she'll tee off against one of the top seeds from the outset of competition.
"This year especially, the Women's Top 17 has a lot of new, young girls who are driven and competitive, and who have so much talent that they are pushing the level of Women's surfing more and more," said Hamilton. "It's really exciting to watch, therefore I'm excited to compete at Bells!"
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 www.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 www.aspworldtour.com
The Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hugh Delahunty said the Victorian Government was proud to continue its support of the event, which continues to enjoy a strong local and international following.
“The Rip Curl Pro is an important event on the Victorian sporting calendar and it is with great pride that we see it reach its 50 year milestone this year,” Mr. Delahunty said.
“Rip Curl and Surfing Victoria would like to acknowledge the support of the Victorian Government," Brooke Farris, Rip Curl International Events and Girls Team Manager, said.