BELLS BEACH, Victoria/AUS (Friday, March 29, 2013) - The ASP Top 34 returned to battle today as the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by Ford completed Round 1 of competition in clean three-to-four foot (1 metre) waves at Bells Beach.
Stop No. 2 of 10 on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach recommences the hunt for this year's world surfing crown and the perennial threats were in blistering form on opening day.
Kelly Slater (USA), 41, 11-time ASP World Champion, posted an emphatic victory over a lethal Adam Melling (AUS), 28, and wildcard Jacob Willcox (AUS), 15, in Round 1 of competition this afternoon. Slater's commanding display at Rincon point netted him the day's high heat total of an 18.07 out of a possible 20, including a near-perfect 9.70 on his final wave of the heat.
"I switched my equipment back to the Weirdo Ripper which I rode in the early rounds on the Gold Coast and it seemed to work really well in those slopey Rincon waves," Slater said. "I drifted in towards the end of the heat and that wave (9.70) wasn't very big, but it looked like it was going to run a bit better and it just allowed for a good amount of turns."
Following a Runner-Up finish in 2012, Slater is back with a vengeance this season, collecting a win at the opening event on the Gold Coast and announcing his intentions for the year ahead.
"I'm committed to the tour this year," Slater said. "I think in the past, I've been of two minds - wanting to compete but also wanting to chase swells around the world and that's why I've been hesitant to commit before. This year though, I'm committed and focused on the tour. When I stop competing in a few years, I can chase the swells then."
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 31, reigning ASP World Champion, has collected three Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach victories (2004, 2009, 2011) throughout his storied career and the stylish natural-footer continued his impressive run at the iconic break in Round 1 this morning.
"Bells is comfortable place for me," Parkinson said. "It has so much history and I've been surfing the waves, Rincon and the Bowl and Winki, my whole life. I love coming back here to compete and feel very at home. Kelly (Slater) set the pace at the first stop on the Goldy, but there are a lot of crew right in the mix."
Parkinson was joined by Gold Coast stablemate and two-time ASP World Champion (2007, 2009) Mick Fanning (AUS), 31, today as back-to-back Round 1 victors with Fanning slicing through the morning conditions and directly into Round 3.
"Very happy to get through a heat out at Bells," Wilson said. "I had a bit of success here in my junior career, but lost in Round 2 the last few years. So yeah, I'm into Round 3 and that's already the best result of my professional career here."
Long considered one of the premiere surfers on the planet, Wilson's start to the 2013 season has positioned the young Sunshine Coaster in the hunt for the 2013 ASP World Title.
"A Top 5 finish this year would be great but the World Title is the goal," Wilson said. "I had a pretty good start on the Gold Coast and hopefully I can back it up at Bells and keep the momentum up. The waves are pretty fun and I think today may be the smallest we get it through the window so hopefully we get to finish up in the Bells Bowl."
While the top seeds dominated the opening day proceedings, rookies Nat Young(USA), 21, and Filipe Toledo (BRA), 17, collected dynamic Round 1 victories of their own with Young posting a dramatic last-minute win with his searing backhand surfing and Toledo flying across and over the rippable Rincon righthanders to advance directly into Round 3.
Kolohe Andino (USA), 19, ASP Dream Tour sophomore, punctuated the day's affairs with a high-flying exhibition against Jordy Smith (ZAF), 25, and C.J. Hobgood (USA), 33. Andino opened up the heat with a full-rotation aerial for a 9.57 and took a commanding 17.14 heat total to finish out the day.
"It's a weird dynamic on this tour as they're all your favorite surfers and you want to beat them," Andino said. "Jordy (Smith) is one of my favorite surfers and CJ (Hobgood) is so deadly. I'm having fun though. I feel like my surfing has improved a lot from last year. Hopefully we get good waves for the rest of the event."
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 7:30am to assess conditions for a possible 8am start.
The 2013 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach will be webcast LIVE via www.live.ripcurl.com and broadcast live on Fuel TV in Australia and Portugal, ESPN in Brazil and MCS Extreme in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland and Africa. You can also watch the event live via the Rip Curl Pro iPhone app, available free in the iTunes App Store.
CoastalWatch, official forecasters for the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, have called for: A mid period SW swell maintains three foot surf at Bells on Friday and eases into Saturday. A stronger increase in long period SW groundswell arrives over the Easter long weekend. This is likely to be followed by another strong SSW groundswell around Wednesday 4 April.
For more information, log onto http://www.aspworldtour.com