Next week the Rip Curl Pro returns to Bells Beach for the 57th time, continuing a tradition going back to the early sixties.
Once again the best male and female surfers in the world will descend on Torquay for two weeks in the hope of a/ scoring epic waves and b/ winning the Rip Curl Pro and that rare privilege of ringing the famed ‘Bell’ in front of thousands of screaming surf fans.
If the 57th running of the event isn’t exciting enough for you this years event will also be the last time three time World Surfing Champ Mick Fanning pulls on a professional contest singlet.
Fanning has been part of the woodwork at Bells for two decades winning the event four times and coming second a bunch of other times. Mick loves surfing at Bells and Bells loves Mick. His fast rail to rail surfing style is perfectly suited to Bells which is a mystery to many pro surfers who struggle to adjust to its long walls and wave face.
Fanning’s decision two weeks ago to retire at the end of the Rip Curl Pro after 17 years on the professional tour will give the event special significance as thousands of Fanning fans descend on Bells for his last professional contest (and if your down that way look out for the ‘Go Mick’ signs in town…. Torquay loves Mick Fanning!)
The rest of the event offers much intrigue. While Fanning will retire after 17 years for 11 times world champ Kelly Slater the competitive fire continues to burn (this will be Slater’s 27th year on the professional world tour). Slater has spent most of summer recovering from ankle surgery which has kept him out of the water but fingers crossed he will be surf fit for Mick’s last Rip Curl Pro.
Current world champ John John Florence from Hawaii will be keen to win his first Bell this year. Like Fanning and Slater Florence (a natural footer) is perfectly suited to carving up those big long Bells walls but so far he is yet to ring the Bell.
The women’s event will also see a galaxy of surf stars with Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore, Coco Ho, Sally Fitzgibbon and a bunch of younger female surfers all keen to win at Bells.
This year the event starts on Thursday 28th March so an early Easter means a strong chance of good waves on the first weekend of the contest. Get down to Bells Beach early and cheer on Mick Fanning for the last time. One of Australia’s truly great surfers.
For more information on the 2018 Rip Curl Pro go to https://www.ripcurl.com.au/events/international/rip-curl-pro-bells-beach.html.
By John Foss