BELLS BEACH, Victoria/AUS (Sunday, March 31, 2013) - The ASP Top 34 returned to Bells Beach today, taking on solid six-to-eight foot (2 - 2.5 metre) surf for Round 2 and the opening three heats of Round 3 at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by Ford.
The second stop on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach embarked on another solid day of competition this morning with the world's best surfers doing battle in the well-overhead surf in the Bells Bowl.
Jordy Smith (ZAF), 25, long considered a threat to the ASP World Title, was in sensational form this morning, nailing a near-perfect 19.14 heat total out of a possible 20 for unmatched power and precision in the big Bells righthanders.
"I have really good equipment under my feet right now," Smith said. "The boards feel really solid and I think big Bells Bowl waves really suit my surfing. I love having big walls to carve up. Hopefully the conditions stay solid and clean for the rest of the event."
At 6'2", 190 lbs, Smith cuts one of the more imposing figures amongst the world's elite and his dominant physicality is a huge asset at Bells Beach.
"I didn't have the best start to the season with a 13th at Snapper but it's a long year ahead," Smith said. "I'm healthy, I feel like I'm surfing my best and I'm just focusing on put it together in heats. Bells is an opportunity for me to gain some early traction this season and that's my goal."
Taj Burrow (AUS), 34, former event winner (2007), survived a hard-fought Round 3 heat this afternoon against an in-form Dusty Payne (HAW), 24, this afternoon. Payne, who is coming off a major ASP Prime victory in Western Australia, dispatched of the dangerous Owen Wright (AUS), 23, in his morning Round 2 heat and posted a 9.37 mid-heat against Burrow. Payne was unable to secure a solid backup, however, and Burrow's early heat excellent ride coupled with a solid backup advanced the Western Australian into Round 4 of the event.
"Starting with a huge score is sometimes scary because you have to back it up," Burrow said. "I wanted to get a backup quickly but couldn't find one. Dusty (Payne) couldn't find one either until late in the heat when he got a smoker. He's in a really good rhythm and coming off a win out West so he was always going to be a danger if he got the waves."
Despite relatively lackluster showings at Bells Beach in recent years, Burrow has reset his focus for this season's event and has high aims.
"I've had a few shockers here over the past few years but I'm taking it on as a challenge, changed a few things up and I'm here to ring the Bell 100%," Burrow said. "This event is hugely prestigious and can really set a pace for the rest of the season. A win here is the goal."
Nat Young (USA), 21, 2013 ASP Dream Tour rookie, continued his impressive run at Bells Beach this afternoon. Taking on current ASP WCT No. 5 and ASP World Title threat Julian Wilson (AUS), 24, in the final heat of the afternoon, Young's dominant backhand was enough to stave off at late charge from the Australian, advancing him into Round 4.
"That was huge for me," Young said. "I lost in this round at Snapper so my goal was to improve from there. The waves weren't pretty, but I knew if I could find a few, I could maybe get a few scores on my backhand. Julian (Wilson) is so polished and so good - it was always going to be a difficult heat. Stoked to get through though and we'll just see what tomorrow brings."
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 7:30am to assess conditions for a possible 7:45am 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 strong increase in long period SW groundswell arrives over the Easter long weekend, peaking on Sunday morning under moderate to strong WSW winds before gradually easing throughout Monday.
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com