The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, the fourth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) 2022 Championship Tour (CT), saw the first competitors eliminated today with the completion of the Opening and Elimination Rounds in semi-clean three-to-four foot surf at Winkipop. The second day of competition witnessed no shortage of excitement with big wins by Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Johanne Defay (FRA), and Morgan Cibilic (AUS) and a visit from Tennis World No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam Champion, Ash Barty.
Former Bells Winners Battle for Big Results to Overcome Mid-season Cut
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), and Courtney Conlogue (USA) are all previous winners at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach but find themselves in jeopardy of not making it through to the second half of the 2022 CT season. All three veterans are searching for big results at Bells, the second-to-last competition before the new Mid-season Cut.
Four-time Bells winner Gilmore made the most of her heat, ending up on top and beating Hennessy, who currently holds the No. 1 spot on the rankings. Two-time Bells winner Fitzgibbons was unable to progress through to the Round of 16 after placing third, just 0.54 behind fellow Australian Bronte Macaulay. Conlogue also narrowly missed out on the second position by 0.91 points against compatriot Lakey Peterson.
Two-time Bells winner and Australian World Title hopeful Fitzgibbons found herself in the dreaded Elimination Round and with the possibility of another sub-par result in 2022. Needing a massive result here at Bells to keep her spot on the Championship Tour alive, Fitzgibbons dug deep in her second heat of the day, posting a 15.10 two-wave combination to get her campaign back on track as she now shifts her focus to the Round of 16.
“After my first heat, I had another chance, paddled out with a fresh start, and just enjoyed my experience no matter what,” Fitzgibbons said. “When you put your heart and soul into your surfing and sometimes don’t have scores come your way or the results don’t flow, it can sometimes break your spirits a bit and that’s when you dig deep and trust in the work you’ve put in. I’m so comfortable down here and love competing here so it’s good to be back.”
Ash Barty Drops in on Friends Stephanie Gilmore (above), Molly Picklum, and Mick Fanning at Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach
After the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach played host to some of Formula 1’s rising stars yesterday, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach welcomed Ash Barty, Tennis World No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam Champion. On her first visit to Bells Beach, Barty attended today’s competition to cheer on good friend Stephanie Gilmore in the Opening Round.
“It’s nice to come down and watch Steph (Gilmore), watch Molly (Picklum), and a few of the other girls that are my mates,” said Barty. “To come down and watch them do their thing live for the first time, it’s so different live than it is on telly and as a fan and as a friend, I really enjoy doing it.”
Local Hero India Robsinson (above) Advances to Round of 16, Defay and Weston-Webb Score Big
2022 CT rookie and local hero India Robinson (AUS) progressed through to the next round after placing second in Opening Round 1, Heat 5. Johanne Defay (FRA) was the stand-out performer of the heat and the day with her highest scoring wave of 8.50 (out of a possible 10) and a combined score of 16.67 (out of a possible 20). Defay found the best waves of the matchup and showed full commitment on critical sections, which were highly regarded by the judges.
“I got lucky with those two bigger waves that came through because I got them without priority,” Defay said. “It’s so cool to be back at Bells after missing the last few years. I love it down here. I stay with a great family here and have been enjoying my time, so I feel like I’m in a really good headspace.”
The other standout from the women’s Opening Round was perennial Title threat Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), who posted an excellent score in her heat win over Fitzgibbons and Bronte Macaulay (AUS). Weston-Webb’s 8.17 came from a series of vertical backside re-entries on a long clean Winki wall. Weston-Webb will now face fellow goofy-foot Macaulay in Heat 3 of the Round of 16.
It was a mixed day of results for Rip Curl Trials winners with local favorite Tully Wylie (AUS) being eliminated from competition while Californian Alyssa Spencer (USA) found herself a progressing spot into the Round of 16. Spencer’s backhand was in good rhythm with the Winki walls and she’ll be hoping to carry that form into her heat with reigning WSL Champion Carissa Moore (HAW).
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Opening Round 1 Results:
HEAT 1: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 14.40 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.07, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.16
HEAT 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 14.10 DEF. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 13.60, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.06
HEAT 3: Isabella Nichols (AUS) 13.70 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 13.14, Alyssa Spencer (USA) 8.34
HEAT 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.16 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 11.16, Molly Picklum (AUS) 10.20
HEAT 5: Johanne Defay (FRA) 16.67 DEF. India Robinson (AUS) 12.53, Luana Silva (HAW) 11.00
HEAT 6: Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.20 DEF. Tyler Wright (AUS) 9.84, Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 0.50
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Elimination Round 2 Results:
HEAT 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.10 DEF. Alyssa Spencer (USA) 13.33, Molly Picklum (AUS) 9.50
HEAT 2: Luana Silva (HAW) 12.16 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.84, Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 11.76
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Round of 16 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)
HEAT 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
HEAT 3: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
HEAT 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW)
HEAT 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Alyssa Spencer (USA)
HEAT 6: India Robinson (AUS) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
HEAT 7: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Luana Silva (HAW)
HEAT 8: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Isabella Nichols (AUS)
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.