A New Format Begins At Bells
Reynolds Goes Down And Unflattering Conditions Prevail
by Sean Doherty
The winners can laugh and the losers, as they say, can please themselves. The Top 16, meanwhile, can quaff java and frolic and freesurf, breathing the rarified air their newfound status affords them.
For the first time since the old system began in 1992, today at Bells the old three-man first round was done away with. Like a superfluous third nipple, it’s long been questioned what role the first round actually played, and it has long had its head on the chopping block. Four days of heat commitments and an average swell pulse of three days never balanced out, and too many “losers rounds” have had great waves while too many finals have been held in underwhelming goop. It was a luxury a traditionally fickle place like Bells simply couldn’t afford.
Love it or loath it, right or wrong, these guys had better get used to the new system. At the moment almost all the remaining events on tour this year are scheduled to do away with the first round.
The Top 16 had the day off and a saloon passage directly into the next round, while everybody else was surfing to save their skin. You lost, you were gone, and the arguments in the surfers’ area, on the Bells cliffs, and online flew both ways as to whether this was the way forward. But, after the surfing on show today, the unkind who witnessed it would comment that maybe there’s a case to cull another round while they’re at it. The surfing, on the whole, wasn’t great. It was hard to tell whether it was due to Bells itself, a wave that has the capacity to discombobulate the slickest act, or whether it was a result of guys feeling the heat or simply surfing to not lose.
Nathaniel Curren had the misfortune of becoming the new regime’s first victim in the morning’s first heat, and it was a long and lonely and cold trudge back up the hill to the Winkipop car park after losing to South African Davey Weare. It was a long way to come for one surf. Plenty of guys followed and looked equally dazed and confused as their campaigns came to an end on day one.
Apart from the new format, it was Dane Reynolds’ exit that was the day’s big talking point. Three foot onshore Bells, it seemed, was kryptonite to Dane’s bag of tricks, and at no stage in his heat with wildcard Owen Wright did he look like winning. In stark contrast, in the next heat Jordy Smith showed that Bells can be made to look good when you focus on what goes on between the turns, as much as you focus on the turns themselves.