BELLS BEACH, Australia (Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2007) – On arrival at Bells Beach, Australia, on first light this morning organisers of the Rip Curl Pro were overcome by a sense of déjà vu as they promptly made the decision to pack the Rip Curl semi-trailer and shift the 35-year-old event 2.5 hours south west to Johanna.
Johanna, the site of event yesterday, was almost identical today with very rippable one metre (three foot) plus waves being fanned by an offshore wind.
And while the action was outstanding from those competing in the remaining heats of round three (six of 16 heats were finished yesterday) none were more head turning than that of Foster's ASP World Tour number one Mick Fanning (AUS), who completely blazed a trail in his defeat of young Brazilian Bernardo Miranda (BRA).
Fanning, who claimed a victory in the first tour event of the year on the Gold Coast, displayed form that would surely have him placed as odds-on favourite here in the Rip Curl Pro.
His typical lightening fast turns and his radical changes of direction were scintillating as he notched up the highest score the day – an 18.66 out of 20 – and he gave credit to being at home in the conditions after spending extra time at the break free-surfing over the past few days.
"I surfed it last night and I surfed it this morning, I've been having fun out there," said Fanning. "Running out to the heat I was feeling a little shaky, but I was lucky and got the waves. I'm hopeful now that the roll keeps going."
Fanning's best ride was a 9.83 out of 10. On the wave he pulled into a rare barrel and whipped some huge frontside gouges.
"I didn't think it was that big," said Fanning of the barrel. "I saw that it was going to line up on the inside and it had a pretty good little barrel section. I was just lucky to get in it, but I was surprised."
Looking further into the event Fanning realises he has his work cut out for him as he will have face off against some of the sport's most inform and hungry competitors if he wishes to win the event – including the Foster's ASP World Tour's returnee Mick Campbell (AUS).
"Looking at the start of my draw… this next heat is going to be great with Mick Campbell," said Fanning. "You just don't want to look forward when your surfing up against guys like that!"
Also excelling in the sunny peaks of Johanna was reigning and eight-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA).
He cruised through his heat against wildcard Nic Muscroft (AUS) locking in a high score of 9.0 out of 10.0 after flowing through some eye-pleasing re-entries. He then was on somewhat of a roll.
"I did happen to find a couple of really good waves," said Slater. "I had a bit of a flurry there, I had three waves in about three, four, five minutes."
Obviously aiming for a win Slater, has not only ringing the prestigious Rip Curl Pro bell trophy in the back of his mind, he also has former ASP World Champion Tom Curren's (USA) record of 33 events wins dangling in front of him.
This is the only record Slater is yet to beat and he is poised in equal place with Curren as he also has 33 wins.
"It will be at every event until I get it!" said Slater. "Whether it be this one or some time in the future… I was thinking about it yesterday and a little bit the day before, just thinking, 'okay, I'm ready to try and get that win'. I have been close…It's not easy to win a contest."
Slater will now take on Travis Logie (ZAF) in round four – a surfer who Slater holds in high regard after Logie almost upset his world title campaign in 2005 when he beat Slater in Brazil.
"I think Travis's backhand is the best part of his surfing," said Slater. "He's good at getting a lot of turns in, in such a small little area. You have to be careful to make sure that he is not getting the better waves."
Logie meanwhile squeaked through his heat against a very determined Raoni Monteiro (BRA), emerging from the water with a grin that was more from relief than victorious jubilation.
The young South African, who was in the first heat of the day, found it tough to get his sea legs after the long drive down the coast in the early hours of the morning.
"It's quite gnarly doing a two hour drive and be in the first heat of the morning," said Logie. "You have to wake up super early and get down here. You don't want that drive to be for nothing, so I'm super stoked. It was a real nail biter."
For Logie making it though the heat was a personal milestone.
"It's my third year here and I hadn't made it though a heat until this year," said Logie. "I'm going to have Kelly Slater in my next heat… so hopefully I can get through that one as well!"
For Andy Irons (HAW) the day was also a success after he downed talented Brazilian Rodrigo Dornelles.
Irons, whose start to the year was plagued by illness, leading to a poor result on the Gold Coast, is back to his best form and is focussed to go all the way.
"It's very important to get a result here," said Irons. "There is only 10 events this year and my first result is a throw away, so for me it's very important. If I don't get to a couple of finals or even the quarters or better then it could be possible that a shot for the title is out of the question because the good guys have already done well."
Irons has already rung the "Bell" twice, but confirmed that to claim a third title would be a real honor. He knows however he has to focus on the job at hand.
"I would love to ring a Bell," continued Irons. "It would be a dream, but there's a lot of hard work ahead. I can't really think about that too much right now."
With the forecast indicating an increase in swell tonight it is hoped that the Rip Curl Pro will return to its spiritual base of Bells Beach come tomorrow morning.
A call will be made at 7am for a possible 7.30am start.
Today's Results: (1st to round 4; 2nd receives 17th place and 410 ratings points)
Heat 7: Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.94 def Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 13.50
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.00 def. Nic Muscroft (AUS) 11.84
Heat 9: Andy Irons (HAW) def Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA)
Heat 10: Ben Dunn (AUS) 13.67 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.27
Heat 11: Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.37 def. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 10.20
Heat 12: Fred Patacchia (HAW) 14.17 def. Phil Macdonald (AUS) 13.73
Heat 13: Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.66 def. Bernardo Pigmeu (BRA) 12.26
Heat 14: Mick Campbell (AUS) 13.50 def Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.17
Heat 15: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.60 def Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.03
Heat 16: Bruce Irons (HAW) 14.00 def. Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 10.50
Round Four Heat Draw:
Heat 1: Royden Bryson (ZAF) vs Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 2: Danny Wills (AUS) vs Taj Burrow (AUS)
Heat 3: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs Leonardo Neves (BRA)
Heat 4: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 5: Andy Irons (HAW) vs Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 6: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs Fred Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 7: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs Mick Campbell (AUS)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs Bruce Irons (HAW)