By Travis Ferré
Photos and captions by Jimmicane
I thought today would be the end. It was looking like rain and onshore wind at Bells Beach would be the backdrop for the day I took my interest in the ASP World Tour out to pasture. “No hard feelings, but I think we should part ways.” Bang! It would be quick and painless. There are plenty of lonely fields in the area to do it in. Bells would be a nice place for it to rest, I'd say. A 49-year legacy. Plus, I'd be with Bodie!
After rumors of Dane Reynolds and Kekoa Bacalso going looney at Bells last night, surfing with eye-glasses and beer breath; a never-ending onshore wind; Groundhog Day parties; and the morning's rain and wind staring at me and my circus-theme hangover, I was just running out of reasons to care. I'd rather get my surf-action from Marine Layer and Kai Neville.
But something happened today. A few minutes after the world's best female surfer, Steph Gilmore, put on a standing ovation-worthy performance at Bells in defeating Sofia Mulanovich, we were treated to an interesting heat. While Steph was ringing the bell, she garnered most of the attention of the Easter weekend crowd in attendance. But I happened to still be staring at the waves. I watched as Dane Reynolds, Andy Irons and Nate Yeomans paddled out the back, rather unceremoniously. The event commentators went silent. I even heard the webcast didn't show the first waves live. 25 minutes of the heat was run in complete silence. It was poetic. And it was amid that roar of awkward quiet that I watched the return of The Andy Irons.
There were no scores being announced. No wacky facts about how Nate Yeomans has actually had both these guys’ numbers in previous meetings. Nothing, really. Most people didn't even notice that a heat was happening. To them, it was a pretty shitty day at Bells, a music festival and a lot of tourists. After the women's event finished, coordinators actually considered not running the men’s contest. But Andy, Dane and Nate were suited and psyched. "Let's surf!" they said. The contest was put on heat-by-heat call. The three surfers in each heat would decide if they all wanted to surf. It made for funny situations. More on that later, let's talk about Andy!
I watched Andy stand up on his first wave. I was sitting with Kolohe Andino at the time. We both looked at each other after Andy kicked out of that first wave. We literally high-fived. I felt like I was at a Lakers game and D. Fish made a hoop. It was rad to see. Andy looked enthusiastic and solid. He had that stance — The Andy Stance. The one that makes you believe in him and doubt the ocean's ability to knock him off his board. He looked like that on all his waves. And then it was the grab-rail power-gouge off one of the only actual Bells bowls that came through that drove the point home. I looked around the bleachers that were packed a mere 20 minutes prior with Steph supporters. There was no one left except Kolohe and me. The Andy was back again.
And now, about the Huey, Dewey and Louie moment. All three surfers would stand in their wetsuits and talk with the contest director about whether they wanted to go out. Everyone ended up going out, but there was always someone who looked sketched about it. Bells was onshore, inconsistent and in between tides, which makes the bowl too fat, and Rincon was still too shallow. Damien and CJ Hobgood both fell victim to the decision to surf and had shocker heats — which is a bummer because both have been surfing super well around the event. Luke Stedman shocked and awed and won his heat. Kelly looked rather fresh and loose. Adriano looked passionate — as did Taj and Mick.
But you've all seen that, or should do so right now at Rip Curl's heats on demand page. The much more interesting things you didn't see were happening in the competitors’ area, where that Jacuzzi I talked so much about before was hot and bubbling. There actually is a girl in a bikini doing interviews post-heat! After his heat, Kelly Slater politely declined an invitation to the Jacuzzi. Kekoa Bacalso did not. Kekoa Bacalso has to be the best dude ever. Hands down. He immersed himself in the Jacuzzi and sidled up to the rather curvaceous RockStar Energy girl for a riveting conversation. "What do you think of back hair?" she asked the self-deemed plump Kekoa. "I'm Asian, so I don't have hair anywhere. And it's a good thing I don't, because then I'd be uglier than I already am." Kekoa is the people's surfer. He's fun for the whole family. And he hacks!
So the rumor was true. There is a Jacuzzi for post-heat bikini interviews. And Andy is back! So you know what that means. My interest in pro surfing has survived a day of round one surfing at shitty Bells, thanks to Andy. Die another day.