Seeding (Round 1) and Elimination (Round 2) rounds are done, Joan Duru, Jesse Mendes and Local Wildcards Xavier Huxtable and Harrison Mann are out. The 1st 2 Rounds of the Rip Curl Pro Bells contest were held in a mixture of fun to pretty bad conditions at Winkipop.
Compared to Bells, Winkipop is slightly faster, steeper and hollower allowing for a more dynamic mixture of surfing but even here the surf was not really showing its true form. Even though many say Winki's a better wave, there's no better place to showcase your power surfing than on the bigger walls of Bells when the swell and wind is right. But, like the Quiksilver contest, which was meant to be held at another famous right point break, the swell and winds have not been favourable so Winkipop has been the back up location. Some explosive surfing has gone down and the usual names have stepped up and continued their form from the 1st stop of the World Surf League tour on the Goldy... but it still seems like not all the competitors are firing on all cylinders... is it the conditions or nerves or both!?
In the Seeding round the standouts have included Toledo, Jacob Wilcox, Medina, Ryan Callinan, Julian Wilson and John John with scores just about creeping into the high 6's and 7's range. There was some explosive surfing from Wildcard Reef Heazlewood and Kolohe Andino which to me stood out because due the conditions in a lot of the heats many of the competitors were playing it safe whereas these 2 seemed to have a bit more flare in the sloppy conditions allowing them to skip the Elimination round.
The Elimination round was held in pretty mediocre waves and Owen Wright, Soli Bailey, Reef Heazlewood and Michael Rodrigues won their heats respectively with Jack Freestone, Wade Carmichael, Mikey Wright and Caio Ibelli just sneaking through to avoid being eliminated. All competitors are hoping for the conditions to improve so they can go out on the Bells Bowl to showcase what they can do in the round of 32.
There are some pretty tough matchups in the Round of 32. Kelly Slater and Julian Wilson go head to head in the 1st heat, which will put the 11 time World champion against the Ozzy who is yet to claim a World title, but definitely deserves to. Italo Ferreira wants to continue his winning streak and retain the Bell from last years epic Final against Fanning but he'll be coming up against a very inform and hungry Jack Freestone. Other stand out heats include the battle of the Goofys, which sees Medina take on a very exciting Wildcard in the form of Heazlewood who's getting a name for himself with his explosive and stylish backhand attack. Last years Wildcard Mickey Wright, who went on to get a place on the WSL thanks to a string of good results is up against another full time Rookie Seth Moniz. This could be one of the heats of the event due to both surfers having a unique and unpredictable approach to surfing their waves. But Wright has been recovering from a back injury and he didn't seem to be his usual self in his 1st 2 heats so once again there's an air of uncertainty for different reasons. Soli Bailey and Connor Coffin will also make for an interesting heat. Coffin has upped his game and has thrown in some unique fins free turns to back up his strong and stylish rail work. Soli Bailey has just got flare and you're never too sure what he'll do next on a wave. Lets just hope the surf improves and the competitors get a chance to go over to the Bells bowl to put on a display and show us how it's done!
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