RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH 2011-50 YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Bells Beach awaits the incoming crowds for next week's 50th Annual Rip Curl Pro / Image: Rip Curl
PAST CHAMPIONS TRIBUTE 50-YEAR BELL
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach 2011
BELLS BEACH, Victoria/Australia - The longest-running and most prestigious World Tour surfing event in history turns 50 this year, not that the sport’s elite need any further reason to chase what is regarded as the most prized piece of silverware on the ASP World Tour.
The past winner’s list from Victoria’s Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach reads like a who’s who of professional surfing; Mark Richards, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and Mick Fanning, to mention just a few.
And for those champions whose names are etched into the iconic Bell, the significance of the event and their victories there, are never taken lightly, regardless of how many World Titles they’ve won.
“The Bell (trophy) is literally like having a World Title trophy,” says a 10-time World Champion Kelly Slater, who is also a record-equalling four-time Bells winner, along with Australian legend, Mark Richards.
Richards, a five-time World Champion, says, “To get that Bell — to hold it and ring it —and to bring it home and put it on your mantel piece, I think to this day it’s the only trophy that matters in pro surfing.”
Kelly Slater rings the coveted Bell following his Rip Curl Pro victory in 2010
“It’s not just an event, it’s a part of our culture, a part of our lifestyle, and a part of who we are,” says Britain’s Martin Potter, whose victory at Bells in 1989 propelled him all the way to the World Title that year.
“The Bell means so much because of its long history and the people who have won it: my surfing idols,” says American and three-time World Champion,
Tom Curren, who won Bells in 1985 and 1990.
The Bells event holds a particularly special place for Curren’s long-time rival, Australian Mark Occhilupo. Occy’s story is one of the greatest in Australian sports history. Following a lengthy lay-off from professional surfing, Occy clawed all the way back to the top of the sport, and in 1998 completed his comeback by winning his first World Tour event in 12 years – The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
“I remember I dedicated the win to my Dad,” (who had passed away several years earlier) says Occhilupo. “I always wanted to do that, and that was a special event because it allowed me to do that. I went on to win my World Title the next year.”
Surfing events aren’t usual known for such tributes, but Bells is just that sort of place.
Three years later, Occhilupo’s countryman Mick Fanning made a similar mark of respect for a fallen loved one. After incredibly winning the event as a 19-year-old Wildcard in 2001, Fanning paid tribute to his older brother Sean, who had been tragically killed in a car accident in 1998.
“Winning as a teenager was obviously special because I was overcoming my heroes, but I was also able to dedicate the win to my late brother Sean and that made it an extra special win,” says Fanning.
A decade later, Fanning is now a two-time World Champion and leads the Aussie charge for 2011 Bells supremacy, along with fellow countryman and former Bells winners, Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson.
Mick Fanning famously took out the event as a 19-year-old Wildcard in 2001
Fanning has an incredible record at Bells, making the finals series of event in eight of the last ten seasons, including reaching the final there last year.
When asked why he has been so successful at Bells, Fanning said, “I don't know what it is exactly but I've always loved competing down there. When you have success at a location you always go back the next year with a whole bunch of confidence and I guess that's what keeps helping me make the finals down there.”
The man who defeated Fanning in last year’s final at Bells is, as always, the main man to beat this year. And when the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach kicks off next week, defending champion Kelly Slater will be looking to add yet another record to his name, to go with his 10 World Titles.
The American is currently level with Australian Mark Richards as having won the most titles at the iconic Bells event, each holding four wins to their name. If Slater takes next week’s event, he’ll become the most winningest surfer in Bells Beach history. Not a bad record to have, considering the esteem in which the event is held amongst his fellow greats.
Of course, in addition to this, following his win on the Gold Coast last month, victory at Bells would mean two from two for Slater on this year’s World Tour, putting him well on track for World Title number 11 in 2011.
The Rip Curl Pro is due to commence on Tuesday, conditions permitting. The event has a waiting period of April 19-30.
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The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach 2011, surf news, surfing, Victoria Australia, Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson
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