BELLS BEACH, Victoria/Australia (Tuesday, April 12, 2011) - With just one week remaining before the recommencement of the 2011 ASP World Title season, the world's best surfers are gearing up for a gladiatorial clash in the iconic Victorian amphitheatre of Bells Beach for the 2011 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by Ford Ranger.
Running from April 19 - 30, 2011, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach will be celebrating an historic 50 years in operation this season, and the ASP Top 34 are certain to continue their barrier-breaking performances as they battle for points, prize money and the highly-coveted ASP World Title.
Kelly Slater (USA), 39, reigning 10-time ASP World Champion and defending Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach winner, scalped the opening event of the 2011 season on the Gold Coast and is well on his way to an unprecedented 11th ASP World Title. With nearly two decades of competitive experience at Bells Beach, the living legend makes little effort in disguising his relationship with the venue.
"I have a love/hate thing with Bells and I've said that for years," Slater said. "I've had great experiences there, I've won four Bells. In the past 19 years of going there, sometimes it's treated me well and sometimes it's been the most frustrating stop on tour for me. I think it's about going there with the right mental approach."
The four-time past winner of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach (1994, 2006, 2008, 2010), Slater maintains that a solid finish at the event historically puts him in a good headspace for the remainder of the season. Each year that Slater has won the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, he has gone onto claim the ASP World Title.
"A good result at Bells usually makes me feel like I'm ahead of the pack because it's not one of my better events as far as results go," Slater said. "So when I do get a good result I kind of feel like I have one up on the other guys. The last five years have given me a lot of confidence because I've had three wins in five years. Before that, it was a struggle for me to do well there."
Mick Fanning (AUS), 29, former two-time ASP World Champion (2007, 2009) and last year's Runner-Up at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, opened up his 2011 campaign with an uncharacteristic 13th place on the Gold Coast but will look to rectify his slow start with a solid result at Bells Beach.
"It was definitely a disappointment but I've put it behind me and I'm looking forward to Bells," Fanning said. "It's pretty impressive that Rip Curl is celebrating 50 years this season and hopefully that means that we'll get the '50 year storm' or something like that. It would be great to get waves for this event."
Renowned for his fitness and professionalism, Fanning preparation for the 2011 season has been his most dedicated to date, and the lightning-fast natural-footer will hope to unleash his expansive repertoire at Bells Beach.
"I started training earlier this season and I feel like I'm a few weeks ahead of where I was this time last year," Fanning said. "I feel fit and I'm just focusing on my surfing and my equipment at the moment. Hopefully the results stem from that."
Taj Burrow (AUS), 32, current No. 2 in the hunt for the 2011 ASP World Title, has made a career out of being at the forefront of innovation whilst remaining a perennial threat for the ASP World Title.
"Last year I was on a similar roll and I got a 3rd at Bells so I'm feeling confident," Burrow said. "I entered the event in West Oz (ASP Prime Telstra Drug Aware Pro) for a bit of fun, but Bells is on the forefront of my mind. I really want to attack it and win it. I never get too carried away about positions on the ratings too early in the year, but it'd be great to get another result in Victoria."
Gabriel Medina (BRA), 17, has been awarded the wildcard into the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach where he'll tee off against one of the top seeds from the outset of competition.
"I've gained a lot of experience since last year," Medina said. "Competing against Mick Fanning twice last year helped me to learn how to compete better this year."
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by FORD will take place at Victoria's pristine Bells Beach from April 19 - 30, 2011 and be webcast LIVE via www.live.ripcurl.com and broadcast live on Fuel TV in Australia and ESPN in Brazil.
Running in conjunction with the men's event, the ASP Top 17 will contest the Rip Curl Women's Pro presented by Ford Fiesta.
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About ASP: The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) is the recognized world governing body of professional surfing and has been crowning surfing's undisputed World Champions since 1976. The ASP sanctions and crowns World Champions for the following tours: the ASP World Tour, the ASP Women's World Tour, ASP World Junior Tour, ASP World Longboard and Masters Championships. The ASP is dedicated to showcasing the world’s best surfing talent in a variety of progressive formats and has revolutionized the way the world watches surfing via their webcasts and other media platforms. The organization is divided into seven different regions: Africa, Japan, Australasia, Europe, Hawaii, North America, and South America.