Bells: That Just Happened

Shea Lopez reflects on a classic week of surf

Parko was unstoppable all week at Bells. Photo: joli

Uh, yeah, that just happened. And hopefully we don’t have to wait 50 more years for the Rip curl Pro at Bells to be that “classic” again. In just the first five days of the waiting period the contest went off without a hitch in everything from postcard perfect Winki to fun Rincon, and finally wrapped up at absolutely perfect Bells Bowl on Easter Sunday. It was a contest for the ages—one that will be remembered not only for the constant barrage of swell, but also for the blistering pace set by Parko and Mick. It very seldom happens were you have two equally in-form surfers come from opposite sides of the draw lighting up the rest of the field before finally meeting up to decide the winner. Parko and Mick put it in fifth gear from the get-go and never let off, or showed any mercy, as they crushed their opponents.

Mick Fanning looked more polished and explosive than ever on his way to the final. Photo: Joli

Kelly looked on point the entire event and did enough to win in a few wave-starved heats. To err is human; thus a part of Slater must be human. In his quarter-final match-up with Adriano many things went wrong for him. It began with a lull, which threw Slater’s strategy into a tailspin, as not once, not twice, but three times Kelly took crappy waves in a rush while just behind him Adriano was left alone to attack the big, open canvas that is Bells. And attack he did. Where Kelly admittedly rode the wrong board looking skippy and out of control on the bigger Bowl sets, Adriano was driving hard off the bottom, holding his carves till the last possible moment, and exploding into the lip at every chance.

In case it is only me that has noticed this year; Adriano was destroying Snapper before controversially losing to Taj in one of the best back-and-forth battles you’ll ever see, he then came to California where at Huntington Beach in great conditions he showed a much improved, and very impressive air game that saw him dropping 9’s like it was nothing. The way the tour is set up this year and after an electric start, Adriano must be considered a World Title contender for 2011. Back to Kelly now, and while Kelly always loves to keep the world guessing what he will do next, it is my guess that the perplexing loss in perfect surf, coupled with a a title race that is looking tighter than ever, has resulted in further capturing his interest at pursuing 11 in ’11. With him still improving as a surfer at 39 he is a true inspiration to all and a legit world title contender until further notice.

Three things can happen in a Jordy Smith heat: 1. He rides poor waves posting scores in the upper range of good to lower of excellent and you have a chance at beating him. 2. He rides average waves that score easily into the excellent range and your chances decrease considerably. 3. He rides the best set waves to near perfect scores leaving you far behind. When Jordy begins to catch the best waves regularly the world title is but a foregone conclusion. Up against Mick in the semis, Jordy finished two of his waves with moves only he is capable of in that size surf. Many surfers showed great form this week, Jordy showed a few devastating, next level finishing moves that really set him apart from the pack. Much the same way the late great AI or Kelly dig that extra bit deeper when needed to pull off something amazing to win a heat, a contest, or a world title. In the grand scheme of things Jordy is very new to the WT deal and when he becomes as comfortable as Kelly, Parko, Mick, or Taj with the system, heads will roll.

For 31 minutes of the final Parko absolutely controlled the heat as he rode wave after wave flawlessly while Mick struggled to connect the dots for a complete ride and was stuck deep in a combo situation. That is until Mick caught a bomb finishing the wave with a close out re-entry that looked as if we may see him get blasted all the way back to Snapper. With jet-ski assistance rushing Mick back into the line up in need of an 8.21 he paddled directly into a bomb. Unfortunately for Mick, Joel was holding priority taking off further down the line in front of him on what would turn out to be the ride of the event and the only perfect 10. It was a fairy tale ending for the oft injured and still highly competitive Parko that even saw Mick chair him all the way up the beach after his win. The level that these two friends have taken their surfing and competitiveness to is out of this world and a great model for future generations of surfers to follow.

Mick and Parko after the final. Photo: Joli
Mick and Parko after the final. Photo: Joli

It has been one of the best starts to an ASP season I can remember. Not only for the great waves on offer, but also for a very mixed bag of results that sees everyone in the top 10 within striking distance of taking the ratings lead after the next stop at Rio in just over two weeks. But before then we will see an overwhelming majority of the top 32 (Kelly Slater as well) surfing at the Lowers Prime as they compete for very valuable OWR (one world ranking) points. A win there being equal to a 3rd in a WT event. See you May 3rd in California for what is sure to be another memorable event as Lowers.