Bells Beach: Day 2

The swell delivers for the second day of competition at Winkipop

| posted on April 21, 2011

Owen Wright, back in form with spectacular backside surfing at Bells. Photo: ASP

What a difference a day makes. If yesterday was “Classic Bells” then today must have been the best day ever at Winki. Not only did the conditions dramatically improve from yesterday’s mushy, onshore, difficult Bells lineup, but the move to Winki also made for a much more exciting webcast viewing experience.

In surfing it is immensely difficult to predict a winner and even more difficult to judge waves perfectly. With no two waves being alike and no two surfers the same, heats often come down to the quality of the waves ridden by each surfer and then the personal preferences of whoever is on the judging panel at the time. There may be criteria in which to base the scoring around, but what it comes down to in many heats that are decided by a point or two is who the judge wants/feels should advance. Simply manipulating scores by .5 here and there can make for drastic changes in the outcomes of the majority of heats. A quick browse through Twitter and various forums will bring up an enormous amount of confusion and disgust over certain heat scores and outcomes from yesterday. There will never be a bulletproof solution for making surf contests an objectively judged platform, so just like the surfers themselves, as fans we must move on to the next heat…and then bitch and complain about that one as well, which is half the fun anyway.

The heats at Winki started off with the kind of waves that we all dream about, and a massive improvement from anything Bells could ever offer up. The opening heat of the round saw Adam Robertson display more of the smooth, precise surfing his is known for. After some big scores by “Robo,” it took getting the wave of the day for Jordy Smith to take the win. Jordy has a major problem starting his heats slowly. If Jordy has any chance of winning the world title or even a few events, he needs to start strong and make his opponents feel pressured by his amazing talent. This pattern of always waiting till the end to pull a rabbit out of the hat only works so many times.

Owen Wright in the next heat gave the young Brazilian phenom, Gabriel Medina, a good wake-up call as to just how far his backside pointbreak surfing needs to progress before he stands a chance on the WT. After a dreadful showing at Snapper, Owen is back in world-title-contending form, as evidenced by the ease at which he was posting 8-point rides.

The heat of the day and the biggest non-upset was in Heat 3 when Bobby finally came out of a 12-month slump with a heat win that mattered. Bobby may be rated 66th in the World Rankings and fighting to stay on Tour, while Taj is in the best form of his career and an early world title favorite, but at perfect and sizable Winki, Bobby was and is the better surfer due to his power, flowing style, and the fact that he surfed with a burning desire to win. That desire was clearly visible in his body language during the heat, and in his words during the post-heat interview. It may be a dangerous line to walk, but when you wear your emotions on your sleeve, often times you surprise even yourself with the results you are capable of. Bobby stands poised to cause even more trouble for the top seeds if he keeps surfing the way he did today.

Continuing the string of great heats, Heat 4 saw Ace lose to Josh Kerr. During the heat, Kerr found himself in the very enviable position of having everything go right to him. With a few tubes on offer in the morning, Kerr went out and placed himself inside a barrel or two on every wave. His best was a 9.07 that he hacked three times before getting a crazy double-tube that he claimed good and proper upon completion.

After finishing Heat 4, the surf quality dipped a bit with the scores and quality of surfing suffering as well. The only real highlight after that point was the inspired surfing of Chris Davidson as he demolished the still-green rookie, Julian Wilson. There were also, however, plenty of disappointments. Daniel Ross surfs much better than fans, sponsors, and the judges give him credit. Very few surfers could ever do even one turn as committed, powerful, and smooth as the many from Rossy. He should have never had to hear the words, “In second place: Daniel Ross” after his heat yesterday. And then there was Dusty Payne’s loss to Kieren Perrow. Payne looked strong, fast, and confident riding a board that looked perfect for him. I think we can all agree that it would have been nice to see him get a chance to lay down even more of those brilliant combos this week at Bells, as the surf is only supposed to get bigger through the completion of the event.

All in all, it was one of the best days of competition I have had the pleasure of viewing at the Rip Curl Bells Beach Pro. If the swell forecast delivers as expected, be prepared for some incredible match-ups between the top seeds. In the next round, Jordy Smith has the toughest draw of the all the world-title hopefuls when he comes up against Bobby Martinez. If Bobby takes down Jordy after beating Taj, Kelly himself may just become his newest sponsor or at least take him to dinner.

  • Mik

    I disagree: Taj clearly beat Bobby Martinez, with quicker and more radical surfing. Bobby was considerably slower, and stiffer, and none of his maneuvers were as impactful as Taj’s. The Judging at Bells is ridiculous. Also throwing Kelly a 9 for a very small air reverse against Kai Otton was a prime example. That was a 5 pt. ride. Kai should have won that heat. Yeah, judging is subjective, but sometimes it is obvious that there are biases in the tower, and yesterday was an ugly example of it. Taj should still be in that thing. This kind of thing happens far too often, and it’s inexcusable.

  • Mik

    BTW: How can you call Bobby Martinez beating Taj Burrow a “non-upset”???? Many people think Taj is currently the hottest surfer on the planet, and that includes comparison to Kelly. Look at Kelly and Taj videos and it is crystal clear that Taj is the more diversely talented surfer. Kelly is smarter in contests and incredibly consistent, but Taj routinely busts moves that Kelly has never even mastered. So how does Bobby even fit into the equation? Power surfing alone isn’t what it once was. Ya know?

  • KPWahine

    Bobby completely smashed Taj. Taj surfed his heart out but Bobby’s turns were powerful and just on point. Its like the guy was on a pivot. I’m not a huge Bobby fan… but he totally deserved it. In fact, I think he may have been underscored on a couple waves.

  • Shea

    Quicker and more radical wins at beachbreaks and even smaller point surf, but when the surf is double overhead and perfect it will always be about power, rail carves, and style. Those three factors have been keeping Taj from a world title up to now. After yesterday it looks like that trend may continue.

    Power surfing wins titles, while tricks win fans. Dane, Kelly, and Jordy’s combination of the two is why they are the best surfers in the world today.

    If you can’t appreciate the beauty of Bobby’s surfing on a perfect right then you must be the Russian judge at the Olympics. In conditions like Winki yesterday Bobby has very few equals. I would have given Bobby’s last ride an 8 when it only scored a 7.3

  • Mik

    You must not have seen the HUGE fans of spray that Taj blew out with his backhand surfing at Margaret River, in ten foot plus waves in his heat with Michel Bourez, another power surfer. As big as anything Jordy, or even Andy had ever thrown—and Andy is my favorite surfer of all time. Taj was the more radical surfer against Bobby because Taj’s turns where in way more radical positions on the wave. Vertical sections compared to flat faces. No doubt Bobby is a great surfer, but he doesn’t have the range of Taj. You’re bias is whatever it is, as is mine, and for sure there have been judging biases on the WTC both against Taj and against Bobby. But yesterday, it was against Taj and I’m not alone in that perception. As for the evaluation of Bobby being more masterful on a perfect right? Sorry Shea… Taj utterly destroys right point breaks: J-Bay, Snapper Rocks, Lowers included. Taj will win a title. And it will be this year. Unless the ASP judging criteria states that you have to be 6 ft tall and weigh 190 lbs to compete? BTW: The best women’s tour surfer is Silvana Lima for the same reasons. Radically inventive surfing with power.

  • Sheapez

    most of what you are saying I totally agree with. Taj has improved greatly on his ability to surf with power and carve. Taj is at his best on a right point break, just not as good as Bobby when it is double overhead with no chance to go ATL (above the lip). Taj was right up there with Jordy and Kelly for the world title before Bells, and he still is up there as Taj is likely to win Rio, Trestles, J-Bay, New York, and San Fran. Nothing in the Judges criteria about being 6′ 190, Kelly is only 5’8″ and AI was only 170 when fit.
    Silvana is crazy good, she just isn’t consistent and smart enough in competition.

  • Mik

    Forgot to mention: Is Kelly more of a power surfer than the rest of the tour? Than Taj? And how many WTC titles has he won? So World titles are won by having the total package, and as much as I respect and admire Kelly, Taj is the more complete surfer right now—except for the mental side. Which is why Kelly has 10, and Taj, Parko, Dane, Jordy and the rest have zero… But for me, Taj is now the more exciting surfer to watch, hands down.

  • Mik

    Thanks Shea… Please excuze my bluntness. Itz part of the fun of blogdom: I just let it fly! And for sure I look forward to your columns, because you have been up there competing with the best, so you walk the walk. I have just shifted from Andy and Kelly recently to the Taj camp, and I am totally surprised with what I see.

  • Leon

    I really hope Shea is on the beach and watching this live and in real time as the Heats on Demand are missing turns all over the place. After all the debates between Taj and Bobby it sounds like the judges made the decision that is getting heavily debated. Looked like a super close heat to me

  • Ryan

    Man I feel bad for Dusty, he killed that 1st wave that only got a 7- totally agree that he desevered to still be in, and would of been good to watch.

  • Craig

    Dusty and Robbo got ripped off! Both ripping so hard and it all comes down to politics. BS