Surfers competing on the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour are pulling on the "rubber" this week in anticipation of competing on professional surfing's grandest stage - Bell's Beach - in Australia's longest running event, the Rip Curl Pro.

Having recently competed on Australia's Gold Coast in tropical conditions, surfers will need to be prepared to surf in wetsuits and in conditions markedly different to those encountered in the first event as the swells that hit Bells travel directly from the frigid depths of Antarctica.

While there is a question of uncertainty surrounding Gold Coast event winner and seven-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) regarding whether he will take on the whole of the 2006 tour, the rest of the squad of 45 who make up the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour are eager to halt him from gaining further momentum via a win at the Rip Curl Pro.

Leading the charge will be defending Rip Curl Pro champion and world number six Trent Munro (AUS) who last year defeated 2005 ratings runner up Andy Irons (HAW) in the beach breaks of Woolamai Beach on Phillip Island after the event was shifted due to unfavourable conditions.

Having surfed at Bells on numerous occasions as a youngster on the ASP Australasia Pro Junior Series, Munro feels at home surfing the famed Bells Bowl or the nearby break of Winkipop which for a first timer can be hard to navigate.

"By having the junior series events there over the years it's given the Australian guys on the tour plenty of chances to get experience at the break," said Munro. "And as a result I feel really confident out at the Bells Bowl and look forward to hopefully surfing it this year given that we didn't get the chance to do it last year."

Munro, who has one of if not the most lethal backhand attacks on tour, also indicated he was eager to show his full repertoire of front side weaponry and revealed he has some new tricks up his sleeve.

"I have a turn that can do some damage out there," laughed Munro, "But I'm just hoping it's solid so we can all draw some big lines on the famous walls."

His main focus in 2006 will be on maintaining focus and building momentum throughout the year so he can finish on a high. Last year, after a solid start to the tour, he was plagued by a few poor finishes and that in the end prevented him from being rated in the top five in the world.

"It's a long year and it was a disappointing start on the Gold Coast in the first event, finishing with that 17th, given that I had such a strong start last year," said Munro. "I did place a bit of pressure on myself to get out of the gates solidly this year and I felt as though my surfing was good enough but it was a just a bit unlucky that we had to go and surf smallish Duranbah rather that Snapper... But that's how it goes."

Munro also went on to acknowledge the immense prestige the Rip Curl Pro maintains and how his holding of the magnificent trophy aloft in 2005 was one of the highlights of his career to date.

"As a kid here in Australia you always see the Rip Curl Pro bell trophy being held aloft by all the best surfers in the world and I'm sure that every kid would love to have one Rip Curl Pro trophy in their cabinet," said Munro. "So I'm very proud to have one there and I'd really like to have another one, so I'm going to give it my best shot."

Avid followers of the year-old Rip Curl Pro will also have noted that it was 25 years ago since the event claimed some of the biggest and most incredible waves ever seen in Australian competition.

In the event a young surfer named Simon Anderson from Narrabeen in Australia turned the surfing world on its ear when he unleashed his newly-created three-finned "Thruster" surfboard and claimed a memorable victory.

His win at Bells sealed the successful launch for a revolution in surf design that now, 25 years on, sees almost every surfer in the world using his invention.

Anderson who still to this day shapes surfboards for some of the best surfers in the world, including Slater, {{{recalls}}} the day that caught everyone "undergunned" or without their big-wave equipment.

"The big day was actually the first day of the event," said Anderson. "And what was really strange about it was that the swell was huge but the water was aqua blue which was very unlike the Bells arena. It was such a pristine day without a drop of water out of place.

"Given that a large swell hadn't hit the area in about five years everyone had turned up to the event 'undergunned' including myself, and luckily on that day I had a new idea and those waves provided me with the perfect medium or canvas to see what my idea could do. I was riding a 6'6'' board in waves that have grown dramatically in size in the years gone by [laughs] but were about 10 to 12 feet plus."

Anderson put on a phenomenal and well documented performance in the large waves alongside the now legends of the sport including none other than four-time world champion Mark Richards (AUS).

His actual win, however came in small waves and Anderson, more than anything, was nervous about going into the final given that he had unearthed his Thruster desig, which was open for scrutiny, and he was much bigger than his opponent in Cheyne Horan (AUS).

"To win the Rip Curl Pro for me was more of a relief than anything," said Anderson. "By the end of the event the swell had dropped and I was against Cheyne Horan in the final and it was a bit of a big man versus small man scenario and Cheyne at that stage had a reputation for being a great small-wave surfer (Cheyne has since established himself as a renowned big-wave rider in his "second career"). But in the end the win was more about self satisfaction. As a surfer/shaper I had an idea and it worked."

Anderson continues to make an annual sojourn to Bells every Easter for the Rip Curl Pro in order to keep abreast of surf board design changes and to watch the fantastic action that always ensues.

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