Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: Day 2

Owen Wright's last heat as a Professional Surfer.

freeride76's picture
By Steve Shearer (freeride76)
Photo: Beatriz Ryder

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: Day 2

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)
Form Guide

Any day where we get to see Kelly Slater surf twice in real-time is a good day, even when he gets bounced out of the event.

We’ve taken it for granted for so long and now that we are right on the cusp of the candle going out we treasure it like a rare and fragile bird. Miracles have been known to happen, of course - the empty tomb being the most famous and timely example - but there was no resurrection miracle for Kelly Slater today.

In a final presser with Rosie, Kelly looked cold and vulnerable. His thoughts on the now almost certain outcome of being cut from the Tour: “It sucks”.

Kelly put his fate down to having “been in a slump for a year” and carrying an injury since Bells last year. Who among us would have the courage to say to his face - Kelly, that's called getting old.

It feels like ages since we have seen Kelly lay down a decent ride, a few turns stitched cleanly together. And we did get that today. He looked great in his Elimination heat with Carlos and Connor. Opened with a soap around the bath-tub roundhouse and threw plenty of variety at a mixed up Bells linuep whipped by a ferocious sou-west gale. The 12 point total was his highest of the season, which says everything really about his level of competitiveness.

Against Kanoa Igarashi he could only muster a 10.43. A nicely put together 6 was easily topped by a younger, stronger, hungrier opponent who managed a solid high 7.

He's gone, vamos, kaput.

Now the Sport's governing body needs to figure out what to do with the GOAT.

My suggestion: sack ELO and make Kelly CEO.

Lets see if he really is the smartest guy in the room.

Kelly Slater (photo: Beatriz Ryder)

Bottom dwellers rose and fell today, which made for exciting viewing. Connor O'Leary banged it up hard to best Nat Young. Jacko Baker laid down big turns to get the win over Leo Fioravanti who was gracious enough to admit later that Baker had simply outsurfed him. No weasel words or excuses required.

M-Rod squeaked past Italo with a wave on the buzzer from the 2019 Bells Champ deemed to have been started after the hooter (it looked OK to me). There was a brief moment of volcanic fury in Ferriera's demeanour which threatened to erupt, but without the Make Or Break camera crews there to cash in on the drama Italo has clearly been warned after the previous tower storming. Surely a query from Italo's team was appropriate though. M-Rod gets a chance to surf for his career.

Michael Rodrigues (photo: Beatriz Ryder)

As does Reunion Island native and balding rookie Maxime Huscenot who calmly dispatched Caio Ibelli by roof riding on tall walls of wind stippled water and riding clean of the explosions.

Zeke Lau, Kolohe Andino join Kelly in the below the cut line 17th club. Kolohe has already said he is ready for relegation, Zeke has made noises about retiring and Kelly still believes he is retiring after the 2024 Olympics.

Of the two womens elimination Rd heats run it was Brisa Hennesy and Johann Defay who felt the cold sting of Southern Ocean defeat.

Injury wildcards will assume added importance with the mid-year cut.

Kelly has made a possible play with his claims of surfing injured.

Defay has a case to make.

There should be riots in the streets if Ramzi Boukhiam doesn't receive one.

It's not often Kelly gets upstaged by a retirement but the day belonged, as far as sentiment goes, to Owen Wright who surfed his last heat as a Professional Surfer. He was fine and smooth but easily outclassed by Ethan Ewing which showed the two times Owen failed to make the cut weren't aberrations and he really was a spent force.

Owen Wright (photo: Beatriz Ryder)

His career was insane and I don't really have anything to add to the accolades except to note that before the head injury and in his true prime, as he battled Kelly Slater in 2010-12, including the famous three finals (Teahupoo, New York and Trestles) Owen suffered a serious back injury which completely derailed his Title momentum. Sans this back injury I believe he would have at least one World Title. At the time his air game was immense. Post back injury it was rarely sighted.

94% of fans expected Jack Robinson to beat Wildcard ranga Xaxier Huxtable. Xavier was not intimidated and threw scoreboard pressure at Jack with some meaty hacks in the lip. Still, no one on Tour does better in a come from behind pressure situation.

Three minutes to play Jack needs a 7.36 and the ocean throws a jumbled mess of sets at the yellow jersey requiring a mountain of defensive duck diving work. Fifteen seconds on the clock Robbo attacks a frothy insider with a big layback hook. He over-cooks it and the lower limbs bend at an awkward angle, with a knee injury the outcome. We have no diagnosis but Jack went out on the back of a golf cart, not on his own two legs, which is a bad sign.

Jack Robinson (photo: Beatriz Ryder)

Bugs, Ronnie, Richie, Laura: Australians do Pro Surfing better, can we all agree on that? Even Turpel is improved by being in their close proximity. Kaipo somehow becomes more comprehensible, although he neglected to correct Bugs mistake when he claimed Robbo was going from here to Margaret River to G-Land. G-land is gone back to the jungle Bugs, we are off to the Tub post-cut. No, I can't wait either. Even jumbled up messy old onshore Bells still holds up. Thrills and spills in the shorey and big turns out the back. The cut has somehow given the old girl a new lease on life.

Not enough of a new lease on life for Kelly. My favourite confluence of events happened as he was on the sand with the last heat of the day in the water. Kelly went for a fist bump with Kanoa and Kanoa 'wrapped' the fist with a 'paper' open hand. It was a subtle but unmissable sign of alpha dominance.

Seawards, Griffin Colapinto was laying seamless power carves through the bowl, peppered with fins free repertoire. Kelly had never looked less relevant, by pure comparison. Even the famous mind games had now been treated with disdain by a younger crew, even if sub-consciously.

John John Florence (photo: Beatriz Ryder)

Griffin and John John Florence looked the most complete today. But the real drama is down the arse end as pro surfer tears get loosed by the upcoming cut which ELO has already pledged to reform.

Not to worry, even just being able to hold a ladder these days is enough to earn a living in the mines. Sport is more fun to watch when there are careers on the line.



belly's picture
belly's picture
belly Sunday, 9 Apr 2023 at 8:20pm

Kelly should retire with a handshake that he gets a wildcard for Tahiti.
And I really enjoyed watching him today but the write up is spot on, impressive in the elimination round and then all but swatted away by Kanoa.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Sunday, 9 Apr 2023 at 8:49pm

Kelly looked okay today. It was the clean walls of Winki where the energy gap was a chasm.

Hope he gets a wild card to Tahiti and it is big and he has at least one good heat.

Then it is legacy time. My suggestion....

He should spend a year or two targeting mega swells in Tahiti, Indo or at Jeffery's for free surfs for fun and to boost his legacy with some amazing mini docos on mind bending perfect heavy waves

But be a little more mysterious. Say less, build some mystique.

adam12's picture
adam12's picture
adam12 Sunday, 9 Apr 2023 at 9:20pm

When you consider there will probably/definitely never be another surfer on tour past their early/mid 30's, never one in their 40's and he won a heat today in his 50's it's hard to get your head around it.
Hope he does take Elo's job, or is in the booth or starts managing/coaching. Hard to imagine the tour without him and he has such an unrivaled breadth of knowledge and experience, and is so articulate the pro sport would be diminished without him in some form or another. Been a pleasure to watch his career, An Olympic medal would be a fitting end, doesn't look like it now, but I rate him up there with Usain Bolt and Ali as the greatest athletes I have seen in my 60 plus years, and untouchable in terms of longevity.

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 7:54am

Usain Bolt? Impressive granted, but an obvious doper. Read about 'healing Hans'.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 9:31am

Load of shit Jack.

He would of been tested more times than any athlete in history. Wtf is wrong with people

vicbloke's picture
vicbloke's picture
vicbloke Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 11:57am

Don't think Lance Armstrong tested positive and was probably tested more time than anyone else during his reign before an investigation found he was guilty

Polly2's picture
Polly2's picture
Polly2 Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 2:24pm

agree 100%. goat and greatest athlete of all time all sports and will never be another even close to what he has achieved. so fark you opinionated kooks (by comparison), and get some frickin respect into your dumb ass head. in other words, take your head for a shit please and thankyou
kelly does look fifty indeed but always a pleasure to watch and learn from

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Sunday, 9 Apr 2023 at 9:52pm

It was kind of cool seeing Kelly get the better of the ocean in the Elim. round. But as we all know his surfing isn’t holding up. Which is absolutely no slight for someone who is 51, I mean even if he was 41 or 31 that would be ok.
I didn’t hear the post heat interview but from what I read above regarding ‘an injury / form slump’ I reckon that says a bit about the psychology of the man.

Really nice write up Steve, thank you.

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost Sunday, 9 Apr 2023 at 10:38pm

Agree - it really hasn’t occurred to him he’s just not got what it takes. It’s just the injury or form slump…..

Polly2's picture
Polly2's picture
Polly2 Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 2:27pm

agreed. wildcard for tahiti would be nice and some form of influence on the tour operations would be beneficial surely

southernraw's picture
southernraw's picture
southernraw Sunday, 9 Apr 2023 at 10:22pm

Onya Big O.
A legend of Australian surfing.
Thanks for the inspiration big fella.

yahabo's picture
yahabo's picture
yahabo Sunday, 9 Apr 2023 at 10:42pm

Griff is going to the Olympics.
JJF is going to the Olympics.
Kelly is not going to the Olympics.
"Kelly still believes he is retiring after the 2024 Olympics."
That says it all.
It's one accolade in surfing he won't have, and he cannot stand it.
Reminds me of the South Park episode about Bono...

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Sunday, 9 Apr 2023 at 10:43pm

Having watched very little, another outstanding write-up and some great comments above.

Kelly should definitely be on the mic post competitive career.

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 7:50am

Slater's boards look terrible and have for some time. On better equipment he would be beyond the cut.

Chris Hasson's picture
Chris Hasson's picture
Chris Hasson Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 8:18am


Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 1:06pm

Do you really think so?

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 8:56am

Re: Kelly for CEO.
Well apparently, we can thank Kelly for the concept of overlapping heats which is the only thing making today watchable and the contest completable by tomorrow.

dandob's picture
dandob's picture
dandob Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 7:11pm

Actually they were Mike Stewart's brainchild.

Polly2's picture
Polly2's picture
Polly2 Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 2:37pm

Hard to fatham or guess or imagine just how much this great man loves surfing and competing. So it would probably be a good time for those in his camp to start talking about ‘the next chapter’ of the goat. whatever it is i’m sure that the sport will be a beneficiary if he’s still heavily involved . cheers Kelly and to everyone, enjoy your surf while you’re able .. at 49yrs old i can def say it gets trickier re-having to have the body good enough to hold up aswell as finding those dream sessions we all love and cherish

3vickers's picture
3vickers's picture
3vickers Monday, 10 Apr 2023 at 7:36pm

watched some heat replays this afternoon….didn’t look a great spectacle which is a shame cos the vibe was pretty amped on the beach yesterday

fun facts,
…EL surfed a wave from out back to the beach BEFORE the heat started…was that broadcast??
…near miss with jordy and ski which should definitely rate a mention in the incident register
….MM pulling in to that close out in his elimination heat was very ballsy - it smashed him
….somehow EE and JJF made conditions look clean
…. i liked the look of r-cal

great write up steve, and like you said, seeing kelly surf twice in a day was a privilege