WITH brilliant form that repeatedly defied comprehension, Aussie power nugget Trent Munro blew all contenders from the Woolamai Beach waves to win today's final of the Rip Curl Pro. Before taking reigning world champion Andy Irons in the 35-minute final, Munro was like a steaming locomotive, racking up nine point rides right throughout the day to end up with not only the revered Bells trophy, but the best wave score and aggregate heat score of the event.
Racing time and tide, the swell beleaguered Rip Curl Pro finally got to its final day on Phillip Island today after having to be transferred from the famous Bells Beach late last Monday, after a week of the waiting period had produced no swell behind that sufficient to finish the parallel SPC Fruit Pro women's event.
The event finally started on Tuesday, finishing one and a half rounds on both of the first two days of dawn to dusk competition, and then began before dawn this morning with the final 16 surfers competing from round four, into the quarters, semis and ultimately the final in clean 1.5-3' (0.5-1m) waves.
Coming from the bottom side of the draw, after finishing second behind CJ Hobgood (USA) in round one, Munro then beat his close mate Lee Winkler (AUS) in round two, and then Kalani Robb (HAW) in the third round yesterday.
He went into overdrive today mowing through Foster's Men's World Tour rookie Bede Durbidge (AUS), Taj Burrow (AUS), Daniel Wills (AUS) and finally Irons. He comboed both Durbidge and Burrow today, leaving the talented duo in need of two waves.
After mustering 18.70 out of a possible 20 points in round four against Durbidge, Munro's incredible heat score tally of 19.00 was locked in against Burrow in their quarterfinal early this afternoon.
Munro's last WCT victory was as a rookie in the year 2001 when he won the Rio Surf International in Brazil. That is recallable, but nobody in pro surfing circles can recall anyone having banked as many nine point rides as Munro did today, especially on a beach break.
His 9.20 and 9.5 against Durbidge, as well as his 9.17 and 9.83 against Burrow, all featured top shelf wave choice. Each gem he selected was then duly carved with tight high speed arcs or decimated with numerous upside-down cracks and slams.
Munro's sustained performances and seemingly invincible form had his peers bewildered.
"He's surfing as though it's four to six foot, top to bottom and square as it gets," commented Jake Paterson.
"Munro has been unbelievable today. When it's lefthanders two foot or under, Munro is the best backhander on tour, the man to beat for sure," said Shane Beschen.
"I couldn't believe how good he's surfing – ripping for sure," said Burrow. "I couldn't imagine anyone surfing those sized waves any better really"
"To be honest, I thought he was going to win! He's been in ridiculous form all day," confessed Andy Irons after the final. That is an incredible statement from the world's most confident and acclaimed surfer of this millennium.
The arena for the final shifted from the long lefts that had been surfed all day to a high tide inside bank that dealt repeated rights for the Foster's Expression Session that was held before the Rip Curl Pro final.
The shift initially looked like it might favour Irons, but it was to remain a predominant left, and Munro hung tenaciously to his rhythm.
"I thought it would work for me because there were some rights, but the rights kind of didn't happen as the tide came in. They filled in! In 15 minutes it turned into a different spot. Good on Trent, he has his opportunities and capitalised on them all," said Andy.
Munro opened the scoring after four minutes, heading left to yield a 6.17 on a wave that took a while to get going.
Looking calm and collected, Andy went right on his first, complimenting a snap with two great floaters, one lateral, one vertical, and paddled back out with a 7.5. he supported that to take the lad with a 5.5 three minutes later, leaving Munro wanting 6.51.
Munro took the lead at the halfway mark, notching 8.57 for another solid left that allowed more than his previous waves. He rode it to the sand, leaving Andy hunting 7.51.
Andy made a couple of mistakes in the final. Holding priority needing that 7.51, he let Munro take an inside ride thinking he needed better, but the Australian made the situation more difficult, improving his lowest score and increasing what Irons needed to 9.00.
Eventually going a right in need of that nine on a wave that only allowed a few speed trims before shutting down. Andy put up an alley-oop attempt but didn't land it. All Munro had to do thereafter was hang on to priority.
"I can't believe I've won the Bell, so stoked!" said Munro. "Look at all these names of past winners. Unbelievable. It's been a dream all my life".
Munro put his win down to a renewed attitude and a very special surfboard that is two years old, but had sat in the shop of his board sponsor Maurice Cole unridden.
The board was a duplicate of a surfboard that Cole shaped, and Munro rode to victory in two six star World Qualifying Series events in France two years ago.
"I've been on the WCT tour for a while now, and not been happy with one year's finish, so this year I just want to worry about myself and feel good, enjoy myself and just go surfing," said Munro
"I've been riding a little 5'9" mermaid that we had in France a couple of years ago. The board is feeling great. It's Maurice's own 'mermaid' shape with a little swallow tail…like a little fishy kind of thing. It has a really flat rocker and perfect for how small it is out there. It's like a little ironing board I guess. You can go really really fast!"
You could say that Munro ironed irons on his ironing board, but that's probably pushing the puns too far. Munro pushed the limits all day though, so why not?
Third placed surfers in the Rip Curl Pro were Daniel Wills (AUS) and Cory Lopez (USA). Both semi-finals were tight.
Wills had been in stylish form thoughout the event, looking ripe to pluck his first victory since Japan in 1998. he defeated Joel Parkinson in round four and Darren O'Rafferty in their quarter-final.
"The waves were really weak, and Willsy just doesn't fall on in waves like that. I'm hopeless in stuff that small. I can surf one footers, but not half footers," commented Parkinson after his and Wills' heat copped the smallest waves of the day on the ebb of the tide..
Needing an 8.74 against Munro, Wills fell on his final wave, one of the biggest sets of the day.
"I thought I could have got the score if I hadn't fallen, but that's okay. I had to go for it, but didn't pull it off. I'm feeling good, stronger than ever, and looking forward to a good season," said Wills.
"It was Trent's day today. He looked unstoppable all day long, and now he's leading the ratings. He's got some confidence now – so look out!" added Wills.
For Lopez, it was his best result since making the semi-finals of the Boost Mobile Pro at Trestles last season, and as second result of the year, a marked improvement
To his shocking run of 17ths and 33rds at the start of last season. Irons is his best friend.
"Yeah Andy is my best mate – and now he's beaten me something four times straight. It's beginning to hurt my ego!' laughed Lopez.
After a seesawing exchange in their semi-final, Lopez had led with minutes to go, only to witness Irons slam home a 9.33 in the dying stages for a rock solid assault from take-off to an inverted finish in the shallows.
Riding a 6'1" groveller board, and one of the lightest surfers on tour, Lopez had been a standout through the three days at Woolamai. Continuing his high speed run today he surfed by CJ Hobgood and Richard Lovett before his best mate ended his run.
Irons took Mick Fanning in their round four exchange before demolishing Damien Hobgood in their quarterfinal. The Hobgood brothers were both in great form, but ran out of juice today.
The in-form Fanning had looked a little lost yesterday. He related this morning that he was feeling flat because he had insisted on hanging on to the board he had ridden to victory in the first event of the year earlier this month on the Gold Coast, but it had lost its magic spark.
Guided by Rip Curl's on-road 'Pit Manager' Matthew Griggs, Fanning had gone down the beach in solitude yesterday afternoon and surfed several boards hunting some new spark. On his second choice he found a keeper.
All amped again, Fanning surfed well this morning, and had Irons on the ropes with minutes to go, but made a very basic and silly error when, holding priority, he went for a wave he should have let pass.
Instead of waiting, Fanning went for it. The wave closed out almost instantly, and Irons got priority to surf the following wave and get the score he needed.
"I couldn't believe it!" said Irons of that moment when Fanning went for the wave in question.
"I was actually doing some sucker paddles seeing if he'd flinch, but I didn't think he'd even think about it – but then he went. I just said 'Oh My God', and then the next wave was a little more open and that was the ball game," said Irons.
"I just made a mistake and that cost me. I went on a wave I should not have. I just didn't think!" confessed Fanning, none the less consoled that he and Luke Egan, who lost to Richie Lovett in round four, are going to get doubled around the Phillip Island Grand Prix track on Superbikes on Saturday.
ROUND FOUR RESULTS:
(1st>QtrFinals; 2nd=9th, USD$5300/600 pts)
H1: Richie Lovett (AUS) 13.76 def. Luke Egan (AUS) 13.34
H2: Cory Lopez (USA) 16.44 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.54
H3: Damien Hobgood (USA) 15.93 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 13.40
H4: Andy Irons (HAW) 14.50 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.34
H5: Daniel Wills (AUS) 16.03 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.83
H6: Darren O'Rafferty (AUS) 13.70 def. Jake Paterson (AUS) 11.10
H7: Trent Munro (AUS) 18.70 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.73
H8: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.43 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 11.47
(1st>Semis; 2nd=5th, USD$8000/732pts)
Q1: Cory Lopez (USA) 17.20 def. Richie Lovett (AUS) 16.43
Q2: Andy Irons (HAW) 17.77 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.50
Q3; Daniel Wills (AUS) 15.83 def. Darren O'Rafferty (AUS) 15.70
Q4: Trent Munro (AUS) 19.00 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.07
(1st>Final; 2nd=3rd, USD 10,000/876pts)
S1: AndyIrons (HAW) 18.96 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 17.13
S2: Trent Munro (AUS) 17.23 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 14.67
(1st=Winner, USD$30,000/1200pts/ 2nd=runner-up USD$16,000/1032pts)
FINAL: Trent Munro (AUS) 16.57 def. Andy Irons (HAW) 15.07
The Rip Curl Pro is Australia’s longest running professional surfing event and holds a proud place in surfing folklore, stretching back to 1973. The Rip Curl Pro’s status as one of six Victorian Government-designated Hallmark International Sporting Events each year, alongside the Melbourne Formula One and Phillip Island Motorcycle Grand Prix, the Australian Tennis Open, the Melbourne Cup and the AFL Grand Final, is an acknowledgment of its contribution to the state’s rich sporting culture.