BELLS BEACH, Victoria/AUS (Saturday, April 27, 2019) – Today, Courtney Conlogue (USA) and John John Florence (HAW) won the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, Stop No. 2 on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT). After dominating their respective fields in picturesque Bells conditions (six-to-eight foot, 1.8 – 2.4 metre waves), Conlogue rang the coveted Bells trophy for her third time, while Florence clinched his first Bells win.
Celebrating its 58th year running and Rip Curl’s 50th anniversary, this year’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach culminated in the some of the biggest conditions the event has seen since 1981.
After an injury-plagued 2018 season and a 9th place result at Stop No. 1 on the Gold Coast, Conlogue is back on top of the podium after winning her third Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach title. Conlogue surfed well through the early rounds, but then came into her own on the last two days in the massive surf, standing out from the rest of the field with her committed and critical turns.
“What an event! I went from being out of rhythm with the ocean to the ocean being in the kind of rhythm I enjoy,” Conlogue said. “I was trying to contain my ‘grom froth’ watching the waves all day. It feels incredible to get another Bell, they’re not easy to come by. Every single Bell has its own special path and journey that got me it and this one was definitely an amazing one to win.”
Conlogue defeated fellow Californian Lakey Peterson (USA) in the Semifinal and went on to meet Malia Manuel (HAW) in the Final where she earned the year’s first Perfect 10 to secure her win at Stop No. 2. This was Conlogue’s second win over Manuel in a Final. The win moves Conlogue from 9th to 3rd on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“The conditions were amazing today and it was great to share the Final with Malia,” continued Conlogue. “It was unreal. She’s been surfing spectacularly this whole competition. When I heard she got an 8-point ride I was like, ‘It’s on’. To come back and post a Perfect 10 felt so amazing. My team means everything and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Also carrying an injury for the majority of the 2018 season was two-time WSL Champion Florence. Florence returned to competition with a bang, finishing in 3rd on the Gold Coast and now winning his maiden Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach title. Florence’s trademark power and finesse perfectly matched the huge walls of the last two days.
“It’s a surreal feeling to have won this event,” Florence said. “Especially an event like this where we started at Winki with small waves then to how big it was yesterday and then just totally perfect today. There have been so many different faces and challenges and then surfing against Filipe (Toledo) is always pretty scary.”
In addition to the conditions, the win was not without its fierce opponents as Florence overcame two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) in the Quarterfinals, 2017 event winner Jordy Smith (ZAF) in the Semifinals, and Brasilian contender Filipe Toledo (BRA) in the Final. Florence’s win gives him his career’s best start to the season and he will head to the Corona Bali Protected wearing the Jeep Leader Jersey, a frightening prospect for the rest of the men’s CT.
“This was definitely the most testing Finals Day of my career,” continued Florence. “From how big it was yesterday to the matchups today, it was really tiring and needed a lot of energy for the two heats yesterday and three heats today. I was just trying to surf my best and focus on myself, and it worked out. I couldn’t have done it without my team and my family. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone in Torquay for letting us surf your waves. It’s been so fun.”
Appearing in her fifth CT Final, Manuel hoped that the first career win in her eight years on the CT would involve her hoisting the iconic Bell above her head. Manuel started well in the Final against Conlogue with a solid heat total but fell short by 7.67 points. Although she leaves Australia without the win, Manuel will head to Bali second on the World Rankings after a career-best start to the season.
“It’s a lot to take it in as this is the best start to my year so far,” Manuel said. “I’m very thankful we get to come back here to this iconic place of Bells Beach. It’s so special. It’s amazing to be up here with some of the best stars of our generation and I got a cool little Bell to take home to Hawaii. The waves for the last few days were challenging for all of us, but I definitely think that being from Hawaii has definitely helped me feel comfortable as I have those ocean instincts.”
Toledo wanted his eighth event win and his first Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach title in today’s Final, but he fell just short to Florence. Toledo’s reputation as one of the best rail surfers on Tour strengthened today as he ripped into the huge, open walls of the Bells Bowl. The perennial title threat held a commanding lead throughout the Final until Florence locked in a 7.63 (out of a possible 10), leaving Toledo to chase until the final seconds. The Brasilian was unable to find the win and finished runner-up to Florence for the second time in his career.
“John John (Florence) has now got me twice,” said Toledo. “I see you brother (laughs), I’m just kidding. I feel so blessed to be in the Final of such a historic event in waves like this and I think everyone wanted to be in that Final surfing those waves. It was awesome to be out there against one of the best surfers in the world. Congrats to John (Florence), Courtney (Conlogue), Malia (Manuel), and to everyone else who did really well. It’s been fun to watch the last few days. I finally got to surf proper Bells Beach, which was really fun.”
Kelly Slater (USA), 11-time WSL Champion, lost to Ryan Callinan (AUS) in the first Quarterfinal and exited with an equal 5th place finish. Slater hoped to add a fifth Bells trophy to his collection but was unable to make a charge on Finals Day.
“I never put in a performance this week as I wanted too, but I’m happy with a fifth,” Slater said. “To at least have a chance today was nice. It looked like Ryan (Callinan) got a good double-up that he attacked and I was just caught behind the eight-ball. It’s going to be fun in Bali with high-performance surfing. Seeing all the stuff from Italo (Ferreira), Gabe (Medina) and John John (Florence) was insane to watch last year, so I’m excited to compete there this year.”
Callinan later lost to runner-up Toledo in their Semifinal matchup.
Although he fell in the Semifinals to eventual winner Florence, Jordy Smith (ZAF) was a clear standout on the last two days of competition at Bells. The South African powered through the big surf defeating wildcard Italo Ferreira (BRA) in the Quarterfinals but ended his run with a second-consecutive 3rd place finish. Smith leaves Australia sitting in World No. 3 on the Jeep Leaderboard as he sets his sights on the Corona Bali Protected in Keramas, Bali, Indonesia.
Manuel dispatched 2019 Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast winner, Caroline Marks (USA), in Semifinal 2. A cleanup set swept the competitors in the dying seconds, leaving Marks without the required score. Despite the Semifinal loss, Marks’ year is off to a flying start and the 17-year-old will remain first on the World Rankings after Manuel’s runner-up finished moves her to World No. 2.
“That last heat was really tough and I think I kept sitting in and getting caught inside. I think I messed up a lot. I had a few waves I could’ve taken under priority and I just got caught overthinking at times. It was really tough to tell which waves were good out there but I’m just going to watch that heat over again and learn from it. It’s been a great trip to Australia. I’m just going to learn from it and move on to the next one. It’s going to be a really exciting year and Malia surfed well so congrats to her.”
An interference call on Ferreira in the last Quarterfinal heat stopped his chances of defending his event win at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Without priority, Ferreira dropped in on a wave that Smith rode, resulting in the interference call. The rulebook states that an interference penalty will be called if a surfer without priority is found to: “Cross in front of or bottom turn around the Surfer with priority, regardless if the Surfer is up and Riding a wave or in the process of catching a wave” (169.01).