The 2018 Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach is one of the great sporting events in Australia. People travel from around the country to sit on gritty sand at Bells and watch the world’s best surfers go crazy in big gnarly waves for the chance to ring that big old Bell in front of thousands of screaming fans.
Bells is always a big party but this year was going to be different. This year Bells featured the Festival Of Mick.
Early in the year three times world surfing champion and four times Bells winner Mick Fanning announced that this years Bells would be his last ever professional surfing contest. Immediately social media lit up and the phones at accommodation places in Torquay started running hot. Easter 2018 would be Mick’s last chance to boogy at Bells… it was the place to be in 2018.
Fanning started the event with a not that convincing win in Round 1. The waves were good but he lacked rhythm and flair. The event site was chockers as people poured into the Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve for one last look at Mick and the hope he would make the final. Driving to Bells you passed professional and hand made signs declaring peoples love for Mick. During the next two rounds he just scrapped through and didn’t seem to know how to get out of second gear. Still he was winning and everyone was stoked. Mick was in his last professional contest and we all wanted it to go on as long as possible.
Finals day dawned and the surf was now pumping at Bells. Solid 6-8 foot waves rolled in through the morning darkness before unloading on the Bells reef. Semi-final 1# saw Mick defeat Californian Pat Gudauskas with two solid rides over 8.0. Mick was displaying the passion and power of old. Speed down the line, huge top turns and wave gouging cutbacks. It was pretty exciting to see and the large crowd on the beach was loving every minute of it.
The Wmone’s final was held next.. momentarily interrupted by a roar from the beach as Mick ran down the steps and onto the sand at Bells for the last time. Mick started off slow in the final while Italo Ferreira from Brazil opened with one okay and one terrible ride. Mick got better mid heat posting an 8.10 after riding a large wave to the beach. The crowd was ecstatic. Would he win his last professional event, would he become the first surfer to win five Bells contests?
It all looked likely as Mick held the lead towards the end of the heat but then came the sliding door moment. Italo paddled for a solid wave and Mick holding priority let him have it. Italo went into a frenzy blasting three solid off the top turns before falling off in the shorebreak. The crowd was stunned as the judges awarded what was a good wave (but not a great wave) 8.33. Mick sat and waited for another high scoring wave but with three minutes to go it never came. The siren sounded, Italo exploded with joy and Mick caught one last ride into the beach, to be greeted by hundreds of fans.
One of the greatest careers in professional surfing was over. The Festival of Mick had delivered (almost!).
By John Foss