Running from April 3-8, 2007, the Rip Curl Women's Pro can be completed in two full days of surfing. It will run in tandem with the men's division of the Rip Curl Pro which takes four days to run and has a waiting period that stretches an additional five days until April 13, 2007.
Though an ASP Women's World Tour event was held at Bells Beach in 2005, the venue hasn't enjoyed a cemented spot on the ASP calendar since 2001. Only six of the current Top 17 were elite tour competitors at that time.
Defending Rip Curl Pro Champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER) will join three-time Bells Beach victor Layne Beachley (AUS) and 2000 event champion Megan Abubo (HAW) as the only surfers competing in the 22nd installment of women's competition at Bells with wins to their credit.
Several girls will be surfing Bells Beach as elite-tour competitors for the first time.
Despite making their World Tour debuts there next week, competitors like ASP Women's World Tour rookie Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and second-year tourer Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) are likely to have logged more time at the break than many of their cohorts courtesy of national junior competitions.
"I love Bells," Miley-Dyer said. "I've been surfing it since I was a kid and watching goofy-footers like Damian Hardman and Occy tearing the place apart when the Rip Curl Pro was on. I'm stoked that we have a comp there and I can finally pretend to be them!"
Miley-Dyer will meet Hawaii's Megan Abubo and Brazil's Jacqueline Silva in Heat 6 of Round 1.
Gilmore has drawn fellow rookie Caroline Sarran (FRA) and Rebecca Woods (AUS) in Round 1. The surfers finishing first and second in Round 1 advance straight to Round 3. The surfer finishing third in Round 1 has to surf Round 2 and risk elimination.
"I think it always helps to get some quality time in before the comp starts," Gilmore said. "Lucky for me I've done a few years of pro junior events at Bells leading up to qualifying. That and I tend to like any right hander really."
Gilmore won two ASP Women's World Tour events as a wildcard before qualifying for this year's tour, and as such, will not underestimate how far a surfer free from the pressure of ratings points and expectations can go.
The Rip Curl Women's Pro Wildcard has been awarded to local surfer and four-time Victoria state champ Amy Stewart (AUS). The 20-year-old natural-footer hails from Jan Juc and will have a home-break advantage not enjoyed by anyone else in the draw.
"It's a tricky but fun wave when you get it down," Stewart said. "It's only up the road from me so I've spent a fair bit of time out there."
Stewart will draw current World No. 1 Chelsea Hedges (AUS) and Samantha Cornish (AUS) in Heat 3 of Round 1 when the Rip Curl Women's Pro commences.
RIP CURL WOMEN'S PRO BELLS BEACH ROUND ONE MATCH-UPS
HEAT 1: Silvana Lima (BRA), Claire Bevilacqua (AUS), Melanie Bartels (HAW)
HEAT 2: Rebecca Woods (AUS), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Caroline Sarran (FRA)
HEAT 3: Chelsea Hedges (AUS), Samantha Cornish (AUS), Amy Stewart (AUS)
HEAT 4: Layne Beachley (AUS), Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Rochelle Ballard (HAW)
HEAT 5: Melanie Redman-Carr (AUS), Amee Donohoe (AUS), Rosanne Hodge (ZAF)
HEAT 6: Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS), Megan Abubo (HAW), Jacqueline Silva (BRA)
OFFICIAL RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH PRESS LAUNCH DETAILS
WHAT: Media Launch - 2007 Rip Curl Pro Surfing Festival at Bells Beach
WHERE: Bells Beach Carpark, Bells Beach
WHEN: Monday, April 2nd, 2007
TIME: 11am to 12.30pm
WHO: Kelly Slater (USA), Andy Irons (HAW), Mick Fanning (AUS), Ben Dunn (AUS), Layne Beachley (AUS), Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and Chelsea Hedges (AUS)