In 1999, modern-day big-wave charger Shane Dorian held the famous Bell aloft and uttered the now-famous phrase “no kook has ever won Bells”.
For me, this quote raises more questions than answers: was he was implying that the venue is guaranteed to sort the men from the boys? Was he suggesting that other venues somehow allow kooks to claim titles? Was he simply calling out to the nay-sayers and reaffirming the fact that he could no-longer be called a kook? Does this make Jordy Smith the best kook on tour this year? Rabbit got runner-up 3 years in a row, but never won; is he a kook?
Whatever his intention, Dorian was at the time unknowingly laying down a foundation of cliché into which Matt Wilkinson would one day etch his name. Behold: Wilko – not a kook.
The year before Dorian uttered that quotable line, a guy named Occy stormed home over none other than Shane Dorian, who was then, quite possibly, still a kook. It was the last time a goofy-footer would ring the Bell until Wilko stood up and took the title some 18 years later. That’s quite a record, but it’s not the only record Matty has smashed at this event:
- The last time a surfer won 2 consecutive events on the men’s tour was in 2012, with Slater winning Trestles and France
- The worst start that a calendar world champion has had at the first 2 events (since 2010) has been a 5th and 3rd (both Joel and Mick did it in 2013-14 to be standing at 11700 points). This means that, historically, Wilko already has the title in the bag, since his nearest rival is rookie Conner Coffin with 9200 points
- The last time somebody won the first 2 events of the year was Parko in 2009. Through injury and bad fortune he missed out on the title to Mick that year. Slater did it in 2008, 2006 and 1997 as well, while Sunny Garcia managed the double in 2000. The point is, in four of five occasions, the surfer who won the first 2 events also went on to win the title. Big ups to supreme FS numbers man McCovey Cove for helping us out with this one.
There is no doubting Wilko’s momentum at the moment. And with two wins from as many events, it’s almost impossible to deny his potential for a title in 2016. I’m a believer. Well, almost; I’m still not sure if he’ll make my team for Margaret’s. Excuse me for a minute while I use another clichéd sporting quote: “form is temporary, class is permanent”. Is Wilko in red-hot form, or has he changed to another class? And what of the other top-class surfers whose form has been below that of their usual standard, will their class lift them back to the top? We will analyse that further in our Margaret River analysis. For now, we simply stand in awe of Wilko and his current domination.
The rookies continued to impress didn’t they? Caio pipped JJF in what some may call a controversial win (see image below) before going down to Jordy; Davey Cathels won in R1 and followed it up by defeating Medina in R3; world number 2 Conner Coffin beat Parko in R3 as well as both Mick AND Jordy in R4; and Kanoa dominated in R1, before losing to superman Wilko in R3. Let’s just not talk about Alex Ribeiro.
Jordy, who was on everyone’s team but mine, found his form again and silenced the doubters. It’s good to see him back; we hope he continues to build.
A few more interesting points after watching the Bells contest unfold:
- Mason Ho, after a single result of finishing 9th at Bells, now sits above Medina, Flores, Slater, Kerr and Taj in the rankings
- The women’s event got the best waves. How's that for breaking with conventions?
- The contest wasn’t without its judging controversy - It seems that, while the women’s event continued the long-held tradition of scaling up scores for the crowd favourites (how unlucky was Malia Manuel?), the men's contests now seem to be suffering from the opposite: if you are an established favourite you can expect some tough scoring (a la JJF, Joel, Slater etc.), while the rookies keep resembling the flavour of the month
- It’s time for some quality waves and some deep, deep barrels. Is anyone else hoping for some serious Box time at the next event?
We suggested to WSL that, given their regular promotion of contest jerseys available for sale to the public (I’m Mick Fanning!), it might be a good idea to offer a custom-made yellow jersey for each fantasy player who wins an event. They would be one-of-a-kind items and would cost the WSL very little. Plus, they beautifully merge the fantasy game to reality AND they look fantastic (go on, scroll up and look again). If you, like us, think that fantasy prizes are well overdue and that this idea has legs, then tell WSL on twitter, facebook or email. I bet Dylan would love it if you did.
The overall leader in the FS club is still christobal13, who backed up their 941 at the QuikPro with a 965 at Bells. Christobal13 has now had the best club score in two consecutive events, making him the closest thing to fantasy Wilko that I can think of. He didn’t get a yellow jersey graphic, I know, but he’s killing it.
A massive congratulations also goes out to Herb, who’s monster score of 717.64 topped the event total for the WSL group and placed him at 11th overall. Nice work.
Best possible team
This team, with a score of 765.04, took some confidence. It has three rookies, two surfers coming off a 25th at the Gold Coast, three surfers coming off a 13th, and Matt Wilkinson, who has never been synonymous with consistency. Well done if you had something close to this.
Congratulations go to richard’s picks for taking out the top score in the WSL fantasy game with 728.38. ‘richard’ had 5 of the top 8 surfers and had all 8 through to at least the 3rd round.
Well done also to surfnicke, who romped home in the Fantasy Surfer game with a score of 1159. His team (below) was very close to the best possible, with a swap from Stu to Mason being his only possible improvement (for 26 more points).
The Fantasy Losers
Here are the WSL fantasy surfers who burnt us with their mediocrity:
Kerr and Taj were well below par, while Stu Kennedy and Kolohe fell back to earth after their Gold Coast efforts. Flores wasn't projected to do particularly well, and Jadson and Ribeiro are a little down on momentum. The FS surfer results are here, and they basically reflect those of the WSL game.
Surf-Stats projections analysis
The numbers teams again outperformed the Surf-Stats teams in both the WSL and FS games. That said, neither of them performed anything close to well.
Our article itself was mixed: we suggested Mick for the conditions, Wilko for form and Davey as a dark horse. Our projections suggested Jordy and Mick, and warned against Banting, Asing and Ribeiro. We were way out with Caio at the low end and ADS at the high end. There was plenty of good info there, but it seems that we chose to ignore most of it when selecting our own teams. This year has been particularly difficult to predict using data from previous years, but as the year continues our models will improve.
These winners will go into the draw to claim the overall SS awards at the end of the year:
Biggest single manoeuvre: while there were some massive manoeuvres thrown down at this event, I just can’t go past Mason’s gorgeous lip-carve-to-clean-Bells-tube in R4. Sure, some may question whether a tube is a manoeuvre, but after being so starved of barrels on tour this year, I don’t care. Enjoy. Notable mention goes to Italo’s cheeky pop-shuvit-cheese-whiz in the whitewash (about 6:30 into the video).
Best single wave: This was tough. There were a number of big, committed waves that demonstrated quality surfing in difficult conditions. I’m going to give a tie; to Wilko’s 9.57 double-claim tail-waft bonanza that showed flair and exemplified his new-found competitive passion; and to Italo’s clutch 9.33 to beat Seabass in R3, which was super critical surfing within a very high-pressure situation.
Best heat: R4, H3 – Conner vs. Mick vs. Jordy (average wave score 7.93). This heat had 3 top surfers revelling in classic Bells conditions. It’s a shame we couldn’t have seen more of these heats in these conditions during the waiting period.
Biggest disappointment: The waves? Again? Slater gave this award another red-hot-go, but it was Kolohe who disappointed the most by failing to back up his great form at the Gold Coast. While the WSL ownership percentages have dropped off the map, the FS numbers had Kolohe owned by more than Slater. John John also hurt a lot of teams at this event.
Most impressive: Wilko. How could it be anyone else? It’s nice to see Jordy back amongst it. Caio surprised a few people too.
That’s it for Bells. Our sortable data for Margaret River will be up in a couple of days, and the contest analysis will be close behind. Feel free to comment or remind us how pathetic our scores have been in the section below.