Silvana Lima Wins The 2009 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

Conditions: Inconsistent, Coco Ho-high, offshore until it wasn't
Events Held: Women's Quarters through to the finish
Nature's Call: I am a writer, a writer of fictions.
Prediction: "They're saying Tuesday could be, like, the best ever." – Rip Curl's Dylan Slater

Do you remember when President Obama, actually Senator Obama at the time, burned his golden hand on the stove of poor phrasing with the folksy, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig"? Somehow people thought he was talking about the lipstick-covered and subtly piggish Sarah Palin. Nonsense, he was talking about Bells.

Offshore winds, which finally began blowing here last night, are the lipstick on Bells' pudgy snout; they're the reason the world is convinced this is a good wave, nay, a great wave, World Tour quality. On par with Snapper Rocks and The Banzai Pipeline, it is, haven't you seen the pictures? Paint this place with a northwest wind, snap a pulled-back lineup portrait, and splay the flawless imagery from Lisbon to LA. Then just hope nobody ever actually comes here, and surfs it at high tide.

"Rip Curl owns the license, and of course they're never gonna take it away from Bells," said ASP Head Judge Perry Hatchet, on the bluff overlooking a beautiful lull. "Meanwhile at Margaret River last week, we had epic 8-10 foot waves for five or six days straight, and they had trouble just getting a sponsor because there's no viewership."

Yes, life is unfair. Especially for the women on tour, for whom these contests are akin to the Jim Crow South as far as wave quality is concerned. While the men wait on new swell for Tuesday, and high-five about the gender income gap (23% at present), the girls were sent into slow and irregular sets on the Bells Bowl this morning. Well, better than a mandatory Burka.

It was always about Steph Gilmore, who enjoys a deep, wide moat of celebrity between herself and the rest of women's surfing. "She's bigger than Mick [Fanning]," as one Rip Curl marketing exec said, which is true. After her win on the Gold Coast last month, Australia and I considered Steph unbeatable – she surfs the most boyish by far – and it was no surprise to see her through to the final, one heat from a third straight Bell (no woman has done it).

I asked Layne Beachley if Steph is in fact invulnerable. "Aesthetically, Steph's longer and athletic, so everything she does looks better and more pronounced. The common person would look at her and go, 'There's no way anyone could ever touch her.'" Being quite common, I didn't think she could lose.

And she didn't lose, really. Instead she was beaten, soundly outsurfed, by Silvana Lima, whom Beachley calls "an anomaly." Silvana was fast and loose and posted her 9-point ride at the start of the final; took the lead and put it in a lockbox; then spent the heat's remainder trying airs. Airs! With no Y chromosome! Silvana shook her bell to orcish roars from the crowd. Girls who grew up jealously melting Platinum Blonde Barbie cheered the day. Steph has the most refined technique, yes, but Silvana earned victory with bigger and stronger turns, in a Fem-Ward beats Fem-Joel kind of story. If it's too early to call this a title race, I'll temper the claim by saying Steph, Silvana OR a rookie will win the world championship this year. That, of course, is no bolder a claim than "It's Easter." Happy Easter.

This gallery is brought to you by

1 – Silvana Lima (AUS) 17.34
2 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.06

SF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.60 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.67
SF 2: Silvana Lima (BRA) 15.00 def. Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 7.{{{57}}}

QF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.50 def. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 12.00
QF 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 8.43 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 7.50
QF 3: Silvana Lima (BRA) 7.23 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 7.07
QF 4: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 12.83 def. Samantha Cornish (AUS) 7.50