Surf: Two to three feet, slow, light onshoresEvents Held: Rounds one and two Nature’s Call: This ain’t the good ol’ daysPredicted: Small swell increase by WednesdayBy all reckonings, this should’ve been a Hell-fire Easter Bells.Date-wise, anyway. Here’s some REAL pro surfing trivia for ya: there hasn’t been an Easter weekend featuring a Saturday, April 19, since Saturday, April 19, 1981. Yep! That grand 22-year-old day of lore and legend, when 15-foot surf hit the Bells Beach Bowl and the Thruster was born into the world. A wacky coincidence, sure. And in a perfect world it would’ve resulted in the biggest and best waves since ’81. But no such fortune has attended this year’s Rip Curl Pro. Call it global warming, call it what you like — storms have been flitting past southern Australia for months, without delivering the hammerblows Bells tends to experience in the fall. This year’s April 19 featured just two heats in trickly, onshore 2- to 3-foot mush. And yesterday — the prized, crowd-rich Easter Sunday — the event finally ground through the last heats of round two, in similarly slow conditions. “The wait’s definitely been frustrating,” admits event media manager Gary Dunne. “We got a forecast suggesting a swell on Saturday, and it didn’t show up. People are getting antsy.” There’s a backup venue — Johanna Beach, the rural beachbreak wonderland two hours’ drive down the coast from Bells. Johanna, massively more exposed to swell, may be swung into use in the coming week. But National Parks authorities were concerned about the possible crowd impact of a weekend move, according to Dunne. “They asked us not to shift down there on a weekend when we might bring an adverse environmental effect,” he told Surfing. In the meantime, opening round heats — as they do in difficult conditions — went to the top seeds, with big names Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, Occy, the Hobgoods, the Lopezes, Shane Dorian, Taj Burrow, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Taylor Knox among the round three qualifiers. AI crashed his way through round one, despite arriving on a wing and a prayer three hours before his heat. In one of those golden frequent-flyer moments, Irons — who’d headed back to Hawaii for a week or so between WCTs and filming sessions — was all ready to leave a week ago Saturday, when he discovered he’d lost his passport. Three days and some red-tape cutting from Hawaiian Senator Fred Hemmings later, Andy was burning rubber down the freeway from Melbourne Airport, arriving just in time to stretch, watch a few heats, and paddle out to clip Dean Morrison and wildcard Nic Muscroft.

Morrison remained unfazed by his first round loss and bounced back beautifully yesterday to take down Chris Davidson in the second round.Slater had little trouble with Brazil’s Danilo Costa, racking up an event-high score of 18.17 in the sluggish conditions. He stayed on message despite knowing his favorite Australian waves — the Gold Coast pointbreaks — were firing in a late season cyclone swell.Only one serious upset occurred: Local junior Adam Robertson, who qualified through a trials event held at the start of last week, knocked off eighth-ranked Michael Lowe on wave choice. Adam now faces AI for his troubles. Upcoming third round clashes include: Ht 1 Mick Fanning vs Fabio Gouveia
Ht 2 Kalani Robb vs Paulo Moura
Ht 3 Damien Hobgood vs Luke Hitchings
Ht 4 Taj Burrow vs Guilherme Herdy
Ht 5 Kelly Slater vs Nathan Hedge
Ht 6 Mark Occhilupo vs Lee Winkler
Ht 7 Dean Morrison vs Neco Padaratz
Ht 8 Andy Irons vs Adam Robertson
Bt 9 Joel Parkinson vs Victor Ribas
Ht 10 Shane Dorian vs Sunny Garcia
Ht 11 Daniel Wills vs Richard Lovett
Ht 12 Shea Lopez vs Armando Daltro
Ht 13 Luke Egan vs Darren O’Rafferty
Ht 14 {{{CJ}}} Hobgood vs Taylor Knox
Ht 15 Kieren Perrow vs Flavio Padaratz
Ht 16 Cory Lopez vs Phillip Macdonald
Stay tuned for Surfing’s ruthless blow-by-blow online coverage of this ASP WCT super-event all week! — Nick Carroll