Everyone and their mother is saying this is Parko's year. If it is Mr. Pleasant's time to get a Title, he certainly kicked things off right in 2009 with the win at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast (not to toot our own horn, but pick up the June issue of TransWorld SURF to check out our Parko Pro Spotlight). It's still early in the season though, and it's really anyone's game. Ringing the bell at Bells could very well be a stepping stone to this year's ASP World Title.
Bells Beach is one of the few waves on Tour where even if it's onshore and bumpy, it's still fun contestable surf. Remember last year when Slater dominated the overhead, choppy conditions on his 5'10" swallowtail? Bells can be a completely different wave from day to day, and it's not an easy one to surf. So local knowledge can go a long way here.
Also playing in to the mix this contest is the recently devised ASP format, as Rip Curl has decided to run with it for Bells. From the very first horn, every heat will have consequence because of the man-on-man format starting in Round 1, so there's really no room for error. Another aspect of the new competition design is the first Round bye that the top eight finishers of 2008 will enjoy. They will be directly seeded into Round 2 of events that opt for the new format all year long (to check out last year's ratings, head here). Along with the top eight, 2008's nine through sixteen finishers will also get a Round 1 bye (though for future events in 2009 that utilize the new format nine through sixteen will be determined by 2009's ratings at event time).
What does the Round 1 restructuring mean for the Top 45? Basically, no buffer heats where everyone gets through to Round 2. We'll have to wait and see if the Round 2 byes hurt or hinder the top sixteen seeds, as momentum could favor on the side of Round 1 victors.
Here's a few nuggets of info on past Bells winners:
– A goofyfooter has not won Bells since Occy did way back in 1998.
– The past five men's champs have been Kelly, Taj, Kelly again, Trent Munro, and Parko.
– Stephanie Gilmore has won the Women's Bells event every year she's been on Tour, which has been the last two years.
Since we here at TransWorld SURF know what we're talking about when it comes to surfing, we figured we'd show off our prediction percentages throughout the year so you can praise us when we hit the nail on the head, or rag on us when we make a shitty calculation (head here if you wanna see who we picked for the Quiksilver Gold Coast event). Take a look, hate on the bad picks, sit back and enjoy the webcast as the Top 45 battle to ring the bell.
Chris Cote: Men's 1/1, Women's 0/1
Winner: Dane Reynolds. Shit, he almost won it last year—he's gonna take down the pack this time.
Best Men's Rookie Performance: If there's any good air sections, Barca will kill it, with Kekoa and Nathaniel close behind.
Shocker: Drew Courtney and Davo will do some major damage.
Women's Winner: Can't step to Steph, Coco will make the semi's again, as will Sally Fitzgibbons.
Best Women's Rookie Performance: Sally will do the best out of all the rookies.
Casey Koteen: Men's 0/1, Women's 1/1
Winner: All last year I avoided picking Slater to win events—way too obvious. Then I figured, "Screw it" and picked him to win Snapper this year and he got clipped early. So I'm staying the course and picking him again for Bells. He rode a weird board there last year, and I think the boards he's been riding suit Bells' long open walls way better than they suited to the tight pockets at Snapper.
Best Men's Rookie Performance: Casey Koteen is rebelling against our rookie performance picks.
Shocker: Josh Kerr will make the semis.
Women's Winner: Steph again, no brainer.
Best Women's Rookie Performance: Casey you rebel.
Aaron Checkwood: Men's 0/1, Women's 0/1
Winner: Jordy—Tasmania hangover…
Best Men's Rookie Performance: Bourez—Very powerful regular footer…this wave suits him very, very well…
Shocker: Look for a new event champion…
Women's Winner: Steph Gilmore—she's on a roll…
Best Women's Rookie Performance: Alana Blanchard—her surfing would seem to work well here…
Justin Cote: Men's 1/1, Women's 1/1
Men's Winner: Dane Reynolds. This is Dane's time to shine and the long walls of Bells Beach will provide the California Kid with a perfect canvas to show who the best surfer on tour really is.
Best Men's Rookie Performance: Chris Davidson's not really a rookie but I'm picking him anyway. My boy Bourez should do well if he doesn't let nerves get the better of him like they did on the Gold Coast.
Shocker: Slater's 5'3" proves no match for big and lumpy Bells Beach. I know he says he's having fun riding the miniscule boards, but what's fun got to do with it? We're here to see #10!
Women's Winner: Stephanie Gilmore is no match for any of the girls on tour and should win handily.
Best Women's Rookie Performance: Alana Blanchard. With her highly publicized bikinis buried under 3 millimeters of rubber, the judges will take note of her other assets—most notably her Hanalei-trained frontside attack at Bells.
Carl Steindler: Men's 0/1, Women's 1/1
Winner: Slater. Hasn't gotten a 17th in an over a year, and getting one from a wildcard has really lit a spark under his ass as he's going for that elusive 10th title.
Best Men's Rookie Performance: Chris Davidson. Surfing really well lately and he has the power to get those high scores at Bells, also mixed with his new school attack can go really far. Also from Oz, so he doesn't have to worry about the stresses of traveling.
Shocker: Dane Reynolds. Really not much of a shocker, but after probably beating Taj and having the judges miss his wave I think he's really pissed off. It also proved to him that he deserves to be in the top five just as much as anybody else on Tour. Hopefully he'll use his anger and frustration to rip the shit out of Bells.
Women's Winner: Steph G. Again, she is unstoppable right now and will be kicking ass and taking names in her home country. Nobody has the power or flair to really give her a solid run yet.
Best Women's Rookie Performance: Coco Ho. Did well in first event and has no doubt learned from the mistakes she made. Will be looking to really win the thing and has the focus of a woman twice her age.
Ryan Brower: Men's 0/1, Women's 1/1
Winner: Remember Dane Reynold's run last year at Bells into the Quarterfinals before he was ousted by Taj? If the seeding works out right it'll be those two in the Final, with Dane getting his first tour victory.
Best Men's Rookie Performance: Kekoa Bacalso and Michel Bourez are gonna light up with on their powerful forehand attacks.
Shocker: If Dane winning his first event isn't enough of a shocker, how about not a single goofyfooter making it past Round 3 in the Men's event.
Women's Winner: It feels too easy to pick Steph Gilmore, but for all the talent of the new rookies, Steph is still the best woman on tour. Plus she's on a pretty big roll, four events in a row going back to last year.
Best Women's Rookie Performance: Though goofyfooters haven't faired well here in the last few years, after talking with Kiwi sensation Paige Hareb (she took home a 3rd at the Roxy Pro), I'm thinking she's gonna be flaring up at Bells.
Nick Jiampa: Men's 0/1, Women's 1/1
Winner: Kelly Slater. I'm not about to start doubting him just because of one contest. But Parkinson, Fanning, and Burrow are all going to finish near the top in this comp.
Best Men's Rookie Performance: Nic Muscroft. Bells can be a weird wave and local knowledge could be a deciding factor.
Shocker: Dane Reynolds. I think judges are going to be looking to make up for their underscored barrel Dane got in heat 4 of the Quiksilver Pro. He was doing some incredible surfing despite his hurt ankle.
Women's Winner: Stephanie Gilmore. It's a safe bet; she's undoubtedly the best female surfer in the world.
Best Women's Rookie Performance: Paige Hareb. Paige is used to cold water and has momentum from her semifinal berth in the Quik Pro.
WHO'S YOUR PICK TO WIN THE RIP CURL PRO AT BELLS BEACH? LET US KNOW BELOW.