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Event Preview: Bells Beach

If it wasn't for the last day, I'd have said that the DBah Pro was a roaring success. The we're-going-to-snapper-wait-we're-just-going-to-hold-off-until-the-swell-dies postponement of the finals was a bit iffy, and there were some less-than-ideal judging calls, but let's not split hairs; it was fun to watch, it ran quickly through the waiting period, and we had two winners who'd never claimed the event before.

Bells will be different.

For a start, there will be a lot more rubber, and considerably less lefts.

Conditions

How would you like to get a sense of the Bells break via a drone fly-over presented by Coastalwatch and narrated by Nick Carroll? Or how about a Bells overview from Kelly Slater?

If that's not your cup of tea, then I'll keep it simple: It's a right-hand, partially reef-bottom point break that traditionally favours heavy water surfers who can draw out their bottom turns, time their manoeuvers and wet their rails. Recent years have also shown that there is a place in the Bells contest for rewarding progression, depending on the conditions and the way that it fits into the overall wave. Think Filipe's 10 or John's 9.97 in 2017.

What we call Bells is essentially several breaks, the key sections of which are the lesser-preferred Rincon (high tide, smaller swell), the 'classic Bells' break of The Bowl (low tide, 4-10+') and the faster, more performance-orientated Winki (mid-low tide, 2-8'). All of these options work best off a S-SW swell and a N-NW wind.

Forecast

The official forecast puts it thus:

Modest, shadowed run of westerly west/southwest swell looks likely early in the event window with conditions contestable but not ideal.

At least it sets our expectations low.

For the most part, the swell looks too west, and the winds don't look great. There could be a little pulse for Easter Sunday, so at least there could be some post-chocolate-induced-coma viewing to cheer me up.

Injuries/Wildcards

Surfers OUT :

Adriano de Souza - Adriano's knee injury, which is now more than 6 months old, will continue to see him miss Australian events. There has been no official ETA on his return.

Tyler Wright - Tyler Wright has officially withdrawn from the first half of the tour, with the hope of returning for the J-Bay event. She is, by Stab's accounts, suffering from post-viral syndrome and chronic fatigue. We wish her a thorough and speedy recovery.

Silvana Lima - out again. The WSL has been quiet on this, but I've heard she's still battling an injury.

Surfers IN:

Caio Ibelli - Caio may not have set DBah alight (he finished 33rd), but he has a good record at Bells. He'll be replacing ADS again.

Keeley Andrew - continues to replace Tyler.

Sage Erickson - has replaced Silvana Lima.

Jacob Willcox - The Rip Curl rider and semi-regular wildcard will make his 7th appearance in a CT event in 6 years, and his 3rd appearance at the Rip Curl Pro. He is yet to win a heat at this event. By winning the event trials (above some quality opposition), Jacob allowed Rip Curl to select a second team rider for its sponsor spot (see below).

Harrison Mann - Harry is a local who works for Rip Curl and knows the break well. This will be his debut in a CT event.

Kobie Enright - the natural-footed Gold Coast surfer took out the women's trials and will surf her 2nd CT event, after finishing with a respectable 9th place in 2018 (she defeated 2x Bells champion Sally Fitz in R2).

Heat Draws

Both men's and women's draws (with wildcards) are below:

History

Zeke has the best historical metrics for this event (after only 2 events), with a quarter-finals-or-better average. At the other end of the spectrum, Kanoa Igarashi has only won a single heat here in 3 events.

Part of the benefit to the integrated data within our new fantasy game is that I don't have to type it all up again here. Log in to FSS to access all event and surfer history from 2013-2019.

Sortable Data

Event Metrics

While there are many stats available on FSS, not everything fits into the game. For that reason, I've added some more detailed data below. Sort through and take what's relevant to you:

Bells 2019 Women's Metrics

Data is relevant for all ranges and dates.
All columns are sortable.
NameBells AppearancesBells HeatsBells AHSBells Win %Bells FinalsBells 16+ heatsSS Ranking
Malia Manuel71913.6826029
Tatiana Weston-Webb41914.2747117
Macy Callaghan1210.1200016
Brisa Hennessey000017
Courtney Conlogue83314.7612144
Caroline Marks1513.74600010
Stephanie Gilmore126214.59748221
Bronte Macaulay389.94130014
Carissa Moore94015.12734142
Keely Andrew3610.3500015
Coco Ho103312.2542006
Nikki Van Dijk92612.1219018
Lakey Peterson72414.2754075
Paige Hareb72110.88190110
Sage Erickson61512.12130013
Johanne Defay51611.73440012
Sally Fitzgibbons104314.31703183

Selection Notes

Picks

Italo - The reigning Bells champ, recent QuikPro champ, and current world number 1.

Toledo - He may not have a Bells title like his compatriot Italo, but he has a better average placing and AHS at this event, as well as better stats in points, small waves and rights.

Jordy - the number one seed at this event according to the metrics. And he looked good at the GC.

Zeke - a 3rd and a 5th at Bells in two attempts. Not too shabby. Ranks better if it's 4-6' compared to 1-4' though...

Caio - his seeding sucks (34th), but his metrics are pretty solid for this event. If he can make it past the 3rd round, he could be a nice little sleeper pick.

Steph - they only key metric she doesn't dominate for this event is AHS, which goes to Carissa, then Courtney, THEN Steph. Currently standing at a 74% win ratio for this event (Carissa is 73%).

Warnings

Ace - For a meat-and-potatoes veteran workhorse, Ace has never really found his groove at Bells. Two 9ths in 12 events represent his best results here.

MRod - winless here last season, Michael's stats for points, rights and 4-6' waves are all poor, which is surprising.

Kanoa - a HWP of less than 20% over 3 Bells events, plus medium-to-average metrics for the forecast conditions spells warning signs.

Kolohe - looked great at DBah a week ago, but his data for Bells is a little ominous. Hasn't bettered a 13th in 6 events, and ranks 20th+ for most relevant metrics.

Keely - Keely has surfed in 3 Bells events, and is yet to win a heat.

Sleeper Picks

Here's the thing about data-driven fantasy selections: they almost always guarantee you a safe, bankable score. What they don't earn you is a winning score, a score that takes risks with an against-the odds darkhorse-come-good. For that, you need to back yourself with a solid sleeper pick. Here are my non-data-based suggestions:

*N.B. the WSL fantasy game has based their tiers on surfers' 2019 RANKING only, which is basically their result at the GC event. This is despite the fact that the WSL's seeding ranks are markedly different. The price structures for the FSS game take into consideration seeding, not ranking, as well as other relevant metrics for each event.

High End - Jordy, Medina and fly-boy Italo will likely dominate the pointy end of team selections. This leaves Julian and Filipe as the more 'high risk' surfers to pick as sleepers. According to our data though, Filipe isn't particularly risky at all. Pick him, and hope that nobody else does...

Mid Range - Willian Cardoso may already be on people's radar for this event, but with guys like Zeke, John, Wade and Bourez filling up the middle spots, the Panda could be a sneaky sleeper.

Low - Are you going to risk Kelly? If you do, you'll hardly be backing a contrary dark-horse. The low seeds are the hardest, as many of the rookies are untested here. Soli won the Australian Indigenous Titles event here at Bells just last year, so he knows the wave (and how to surf it) better than some of the others.

Outliers

There's always a few surfers who represent some kind of anomaly within our selection analyses. Maybe there are factors that a spreadsheet can’t detect, or maybe their recent form simply contradicts their previous averages.

The conditions - we saw the QuikPro being run and won without a single heat at Snapper because of the conditions. Keep an eye on the forecast, and make sure your team match the waves.

Kelly - he genuinely sounded humbled and disillusioned after his R2 loss. Can he regroup?

Caroline - did you know that Caroline would claim Steph's title as the youngest would champ if she could go on to take this season as her own? She's the most exciting thing in women's surfing right now, but for the first time, she enters an event with a yellow jersey. Will it weigh heavily on her shoulders? It will be a telling event...

Mikey - Mikey wildcard dominance in 2018 is well documented, but he didn't actually surf Bells last year.

Nikki - for a local, Nikki hasn't fared too well at Bells. Is it the pressure of the home crowd?

Wildcards - since Adam Robbo's heroic effort all those years back, it's been a lean run for locals and wildcards at Bells during recent years. Will we see another Chris Davo? Or will it be 33rds all 'round?

Fantasy Surf Sessions

Thanks again to the 201 players who selected teams for our first event of the season. Spread the word and let's keep on building.

We're pleased to confirm our official prize partners from Bells onwards, with Surfstitch ($100 vouchers), SurfRider and Swellnet (memberships), and Who Gives a Crap (guilt-free toilet paper for last place) helping us reward your efforts for the rest of the season.

Remember to log in and tweak your teams to see the best options for your budget.

As always, feel free to give us feedback or suggestions on how to improve the game, and don't be shy in sharing/recommending us; in this digital age, engagement means everything, and more players means more prizes and support for our grass-roots partners.

Good luck with your fantasy teams.

- Balyn

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Balyn McDonald
Editor-in-Chief
Balyn grew up on the east coast of Australia, nourishing his passion for surfing through a diet of empty beach breaks, Taylor Steele VHS cassettes and poor amateur competition results. As one of the head writers/analysts for Surf-Stats, he is as comfortable tearing through spreadsheets as he is 6' left-handers.
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