BELLS BEACH, Australia (Thursday, April 2, 2009) With the waiting period for the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach presented by Snickers under a week from commencing, the world's best surfers are gearing up for an assault on one of Australia's iconic venues.
Event No. 2 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach will unveil a new format this season, pitting the ASP Top 45 in man-on-man elimination heats from the outset, providing a dynamic new element to this year's hunt for the ASP World Title.
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 27, current ASP World No. 1, has been riding high since his explosive hometown victory at the opening event of the year, but the stylish natural-footer put the revelry on hold after a short while to concentrate on training for Bells Beach.
"After the Quik Pro, I spent two days partying with my family and friends, then got straight in to training the following week and for the last week or so I have been surfing non stop," Parkinson said. "The waves have been insane! I think everyone is focused on doing well this season, and I am no different. If people are looking at what I am doing in terms of training or results, then that is up to them. Personally, I'm not thinking about anyone else. I am just focusing on what I do and how well I can do it."
Having already 'rang the bell' at the Rip Curl Pro in 2004, Parkinson understands what it takes to win out at Bells Beach, and he's been lauded as one of the best to ever put foot to board at the venue.
"It's a great high performance wave," Parkinson said. "There's nothing better than surfing the Bells Bowl in big waves and offshore winds."
Considered an ASP World Title threat since his Dream Tour inception in 2001, Parkinson has come agonizingly close (finishing Runner-Up in 2002 and 2004), but has yet to hold surfing's ultimate crown.
"My desire to win an ASP World Championship hasn't changed since the day I started surfing competitively," Parkinson said. "I suppose time and experience has allowed me to better understand the skill, discipline and commitment needed to get it done. However, as far how I will go about achieving it, all I do is make sure that I am better prepared today than what I was yesterday. It's a simple strategy but it seems to be working."
Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion and defending Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Champion, suffered a surprise Round 3 elimination at the opening event of the season, but the slow start hasn't deterred the Floridian from his quest for an unprecedented 10th ASP Crown.
"I'm just looking to be engaged in what's happening there and put in a good performance," Slater said. "A 17th is not a big deal actually because anything less than a 5th doesn't really measure into having a great season. I don't really want to leave Bells with another 17th, so I'd rather try and earn another Bell."
Towards the end of 2008 and at the opening event of 2009, Slater has been experimenting with his equipment, riding unconventional self-shaped crafts that have yielded results ranging from inspirational victories to shock 17ths. When it comes to the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, Slater keeps his selection guarded.
"I'm not sure what my choice is until I hit the water," Slater said. "I like trying new things but I also like to win heats when I travel halfway around the world. You also have to stick with directions that you choose to go if they have potential for something. I'm still working things out. I'm not altogether unhappy with my performance on the Gold Coast, just the result."
"Just look at who's won and add a couple of guys who are hungry or with the potential like Adriano (de Souza), Dane (Reynolds), etc.," Slater said. "Mick (Fanning), Joel (Parkinson), and Taj (Burrow) go without saying if you just watch all of their performances over the years there."
Mick Fanning (AUS), 27, former ASP World Champion (2007) and past winner of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach (2001), opened the 2009 season with an impressive equal 3rd and is on track to put in another strong campaign for the 2009 ASP World Title. With Bells Beach holding a special history for the ultra-fit natural foot, pundits are considering Fanning as one of the event favorites.
"For me, Bells is special because it was the first ASP World Tour event I won back in 2001," Fanning said. "I was 19 at the time and surfing in the contest as a wildcard. I beat Danny Wills, one of my childhood heroes, in the Final, so it was huge moment for me. I think the thing that makes the Rip Curl Pro such a great event though is its history. It's the longest running surf event in the world. It's been going for 37 years, all the best surfers have won it and there're hundreds of classic stories from the event."
Parkinson, Slater and Fanning will all be seeded directly into Round 2 of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, along with the remainder of the ASP Top 16.
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach pres. by Snickers will begin its waiting period on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 running through Saturday, April 18, and will be webcast LIVE via www.live.ripcurl.com.
The Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach presented by Ford New Fiesta featuring the ASP Top 17 will run in conjunction with Rip Curl Pro.
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com.