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The longest-running surf contest in the world, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is an institution that will be around forever. While Bells might not be the most exciting and dynamic of world tour venue waves, it offers enough to excite the crowds and gives the surfers enough room to bring out their best speed, power, and flow games.

The one element that Bells often brings out that is not an element in many other venues is size. Bells Beach can get seriously big. In 1981, when Simon Anderson debuted his three-fin Thruster, it was described as 12 to 15-foot with bigger sets. That's a serious size.

In 2019 Italo Ferreira felt the force of grinding high tide 8 to 10-foot sets and a massive shorebreak as he was caught inside and propelled towards The Button, the notorious rock outcrop that separates Bells from Winkipop.

To have control at Bells Beach means you need to harness the size and power it can deliver.

Having said that, the unofficial world's best small wave surfer, Filipe Toledo, placed 2nd in 2019, and the next time it ran, he won the event.

Filipe Toledo

As defending event champion and current number 3 on the WSL rankings, Toledo is the obvious call for a win at Bells. He has all the skills and temperament to snag a win at ease, should it be smaller, high-performance waves that allow him to reveal his repertoire. He will be unstoppable if the contest is run at Rincon in the 2 to 4-foot range. If it's Bells Bowl up to about 6 feet, he is still one of the most dangerous competitive surfers out there, onshore or offshore.

Having said that, if a thundering swell north of 8-foot arrives for the tournament and sticks around, his advantage will be diminished somewhat. Several surfers will then have a better mastery of big wave rail surfing and power carves. He will hold his own until the size factor makes it scary, but he is out of the game after that. That's his weakness.

Ethan Ewing
9.00 - 10.0

He might only be sitting at number 10 on the current rankings, but Ewing is long due for another breakthrough event. It could easily come at Bells. Apart from his absolute mastery of speed, power, and flow, he also has an amazing repertoire of high-speed rail turns and carves. He is dynamic in the air and has enough flair and quirks to his surfing to keep spectators and, dare I say, fellow competitors transfixed.

Ewing is also very determined and has some of the Jack Robinson steely determination that seems to somehow mind-meld his way into winnings situations. The long speed runs of Bells are perfectly suited to his smooth rail work, and a little bit of a lip line will see him in the air. His third-place finish was a testament to this. If Ewing finds his rhythm, it will take him to the final.

Jack Robinson
5.00 - 6.00

In August of 2021 in Mexico, an unsuspecting surfing audience was shown Robinson's actual repertoire. At Barra de la Cruz for the Corona Open Mexico, Jack went to town on what was somewhat stulted surf conditions, considering what Barra can produce. He revealed an epic air game, power surfing in small waves, and obviously found some epic barrels along the way.

At this tournament, we were shown that he has the chops for all conditions on the world tour and was not just a ferocious Pipeline/Teahupo'o/Nort Point/The Box tube fiend. He also captured speed when it wasn't there and surfed with reckless power in waves that often weren't pushing back. So it's not hard to have Robinson at the top of the predictions.

John John Florence
6.00 - 6.50

It's a challenge to identify JJF as a 'sleeper' as he is a multiple world champion and was victorious at Bells in 2019. However, he falls short of being a favorite, as he is an enigma in health and focus.

John John's health is sometimes the question, as his flamboyant surfing and absolutely fearless approach to heaving surf often see him suffering from various tweaks, strains, pulls, and tears in his legs and joints. Usually, when it happens, he is relatively quiet about it, not signaling to the world of surf fans that he might be suffering an injury.

Secondly, when it comes to focusing, if JJF has the eye of the tiger, it's pointless for any other surfer to contest him. It's over. He will win the tournament. It's just that he is so chilled that such fierce determination eludes him frequently.

Italo Ferreira
13.0 - 17.0

The only goofy-footer in this review, Italo has it all regarding Bells Beach performances. Despite his harrowing encounter with the Bells Button in 2019, he has consistently delivered world-class performances at Bells Beach at any size.

He also shows a rare dominance of the notorious Bells shore break, where so many surfers, the best in the world, have been known to falter. It's a tricky final section, with each set delivering a unique ending. Nevertheless, Ferreria treats it with consistent disdain.

He also has the clenched jaw determination that will see him power and muscle his way to any victory, determined to get back onto as many winner's podiums as possible.

Jordy Smith
21.0 - 26.0

The powerful framed South African has shown total dominance at Bells, with huge power carves and massive aerial moves in his existing approach to the long walls. In 2016 he proved he had the venue wrapped by getting a second place to Matt Wilkinson and went one step further by winning in 2017. In this final, he banked a combined heat score of 18.90 points for the win, the highest heat tally for a final since they introduced the two-wave scoring system in 2003.

Currently sitting at the 18th spot on the WSL rankings, the 35-year-old is far from done. This could be that moment if he wanted to make an audacious statement to ensure that the surfing world hasn't overlooked him.


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