Man, Bells is a workout. In two days, pursuing this event has caused SURFING to drive over 500 miles and to develop an underarm wetsuit rash the size of twin footballs.

Which is appropriate really, given the nature of the surf spot that’s brought on all this driving. Johanna is a challenge. It’s like your favourite beachbreak, magnified {{{200}}}%. Days when your spot is a foot overhead and closing out, Johanna is double overhead plus, breaking 400 yards offshore and sending Sunset style rips out past previously manageable sandbars.

Quiet, skilled Ben Dunn offered this succinct read of the Johanna break: “You can’t tell the good ones on takeoff. You can try and catch the bigger ones and hope they line up on the inside, but it’s sooo shifty.”

Thanks to this, most of the heats were very close – except one. Everybody will be ranting about Mick Fanning after today. It’s almost impossible now to escape the feeling that 2007 is destined to be his year. The human elastic band just went to town, whipsawing any lip that dared raise its head, and pulling into the best barrel of the day for the high score of the event so far, a 9.87 that might as well have been a 10, given how far ahead it was of any other ride today.

His buddy Parko paddled out for a warmup on a neighboring sandbar a few minutes later, laughing at the score. “Did you SEE THAT??” he shrieked. “Did you SEE how GOOD HE’S SURFING??”

Lots of people did. It might be a two hour drive from civilization, but this didn’t stop the crowd. Today, more spectators than ever flocked through the cowshit to the sands, hunting for surf star autographs. And they weren’t always chasing current top-45 surfers either.

Here’s a great little Bells moment: Simon Anderson has set up his video camera again to film the heats, swearing he’s just doing it for fun, when up strides the cutest little nine year old girl you could imagine.

She stands before Simon and says: “My Mom says she saw you surf 30 years ago!”

Simon isn’t sure what to say. Darren Handley, sitting next to him, is trying hard not to laugh. “That must have been the last time you stood up?” inquires SURFING, in a lame attempt to break the ice.

Then up strides Mom, a tall redheaded woman, clearly a bit of a knockout in her day, and says: “Yes, Simon, I did see you surf! This is an icon here!” And takes a photo of the big bloke with her daughter.

Simon smiles gently and says: “Thanks for remembering.”

Meanwhile, in the water, the guns were firing. Kelly won his heat easily from a most unafraid Nic Muscroft, who put on the kind of show that more of the top 45 should be dealing out to the champ. Damien Hobgood surfed above the limits of backside performance to dust ol’ Occy. Weird fact: this event is Occ’s 10th anniversary – of his comeback, that is. It’s almost the 20th anniversary of when he first quit the tour! He’s the only pro surfer ever who can honestly claim to have lived two lives at this level.