Jordy Smith (ZAF) has won the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach today after electric performances in pumping six-to-eight foot (2 – 2.5 metre) conditions at the iconic venue in the Australian State of Victoria. Smith bested fellow Finalist Caio Ibelli (BRA) in a classic Bells Beach showdown to close out the Australian leg.
The third stop of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, is the longest-running professional surf event in the world. This year’s 56th iteration saw a competitive field of elite surfers throw down their best performances with Smith earning the right to ‘ring the Bell’ for the first time in his career.
Smith secured his sixth Championship Tour win today following a series of heated match-ups against Ibelli, 2017 CT Rookie Ezekiel Lau (HAW) and 2015 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA). The win marks Smith’s best result here at Bells, following his runner-up finish in 2016, and moves him up to World No. 2 on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“I can’t even believe it — second last year and now this — it’s amazing,” Smith said. “I was stoked to have made it into Round 4 and then every heat after that was a bonus. I tried to take it easy and not take things too seriously, as you may have been able to tell from some of my claims in the Final. This is an absolute dream come true. I’ve been working on winning this event for 10 years now and to get it today is incredible.”
An intense Final witnessed Smith and Ibelli blast huge scores as they put all on the line to win. Smith charged with two 9-point rides for the lead. Ibelli answered back with a near-perfect 9.63 (out of a possible 10), needing a 9.25 with ten minutes left on the clock. Smith continued to heat things up with a 9.13, raising the requirement to a 9.28. With a 17.46 two-wave score, Ibelli was not able to defeat the South African’s commanding 18.90.
“I wasn’t sure how many opportunities I was going to get with the high tide so I just took every wave I could,” continued Smith. “Once I got the 9, a bit of the pressure dropped and then, sure enough, Caio [Ibelli] kept coming. He is an amazing surfer and has been so on point this event. After a few years of injury and re-building, I feel like the pieces of the puzzle are coming together this year. My family and wife are right behind me and I couldn’t do it without their support.”
Ibell’s runner-up finish is his career-best result on the elite CT. The 2016 Rookie of the Year showcased a new level to his surfing with powerful, high-risk maneuvers to take out a tough field of challengers in final series. In his first time competing at Bells last season, Ibelli eliminated John John Florence (HAW) in Round 3. In a Semifinal rematch, Ibelli took out Florence once again to earn his first Finals appearance. The young Brazilian will now launch from 19th to 7th on the rankings.
“This trophy is going to look really nice in my house,” Ibelli said, “This has been the best Easter I have ever had. I’m so stoked. The waves and the support at Bells is so amazing. It’s really special. To be in the Final with Jordy Smith, someone I’ve always looked up to, at a perfect wave like Bells is a dream come true for me.”
The second Semifinal saw Smith eliminate Lau from the draw after an intense clash. Lau had been on a tear all day, even eliminating 2017 World Title contender Filipe Toledo (BRA) on his way to his best-ever result on the Championship Tour. With a 13th place result on the Gold Coast and 25th at Margaret River, Lau will now climb up to 11th on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“I had a lot of good heats at this event and was able to put it together more than I thought I was going to at times,” Lau said. “I’m really stoked with how I surfed at this event. Coming that close to the Final and falling short does hurt a bit, but Jordy [Smith] has been surfing really well and capitalized at the end. This has definitely built up my confidence, especially after a poor result at Margaret River. I just can’t wait to get to Brazil and hopefully keep the roll going.”
Reigning WSL Champion Florence was defeated in the first Semifinal by eventual runner-up Ibelli. Florence posted extraordinary results at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, but fell just 0.20 points short of the win against the Brazilian powerhouse. Despite the Semifinal loss, Florence is off to his best start on the CT after his victory at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro and Semifinal finish at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Still ranked first in the world, Florence will look to defend his event title in Rio and retain the yellow Jeep Leader Jersey.
“This is by far my best start to the year, so I’m really happy,” Florence said. “I had a really fun event with some great heats, but unfortunately Caio [Ibelli] got me again at Bells Beach. I made a few mistakes that were kind of beneficial because I can take a lot from them and learn from them. I’m really looking forward to head back to Brazil in a few weeks. I’ve had success there and the waves are really fun, so it should be a great event. I’ve had an awesome Australian leg and am stoked with how it all went.”
Florence showed just how ruthless the competition is on the elite Champion Tour is with two narrow wins over three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) in Round 4 and the Quarterfinals. Four-time event winner Fanning charged down massive sets to showcase his sharp, aggressive maneuvers and earn some of the highest wave scores of the day, including an 18.86 in Round 4. Unfortunately, Fanning was not able to combat the 24-year-old competitor and will leave with a 5th place finish, his best result on the 2017 CT thus far.
“That was a great battle with John [Florence] today,” Fanning said. “We were both putting up solid scores, so it was always going to be interesting. I’m really happy with my performance at this event. It just feels good to put a few good heats together and get a bit of rhythm back. At the start of the year, I was trying to do things the way I have in the past and it just wasn’t working for me. At this event I took a really relaxed approach and it felt way better. Getting pumping waves at Bells and Winki was great and going down to the Champ is not the worst thing that could happen.”
A heated Round 5 showdown saw Fanning eliminate good friend Owen Wright (AUS) from the event. The two Australian veterans battled with big scores, including a near-perfect 9.10 from Wright and a masterful 9.60 from Fanning. With Fanning in the lead at the halfway mark, Wright needed a 9.18 in his final attempt but was not able to turn in the requirement and will say in second on the Jeep Leaderboard, now tied with Smith.
“I’m not too happy with a ninth place result, but I’ll definitely take it,” Wright said. “I don’t come into an event without high expectations, so I was definitely aiming for a better result, but I’ll still walk away with a keeper. If I was going to choose anyone to knock me out of the event it would have been Mick [Fanning], so I can’t complain about going down to him. It was great to come back and compete at Bells in great waves.”
2017 CT Rookie Frederico Morais (PRT) was eliminated in the opening Quarterfinal by Ibelli. This is the rookie’s best result as a full-time CT competitor and he will move to 19th on the Jeep Leaderboard. With early exits from the first two events this season, Morais’ comeback at Bells will put him in a great position heading into Rio.
The next stop on the 2017 WSL Championship Tour is the Oi Rio Pro in Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from May 9 – 20, 2017. The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Final Results:
1 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18.90
2 – Caio Ibelli (BRA) 17.46
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 17.63 def. John John Florence (HAW) 17.43
SF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.63 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 15.17
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 16.00 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 14.50
QF 2: John John Florence (HAW) 16.70 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.77
QF 3: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 18.60 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.66
QF 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.77 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.53