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Three-time World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) has been awarded the event wildcard for the upcoming Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, the fourth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) 2022 Championship Tour (CT), which holds a competition window from April 10 to April 20, 2022.
“Bells is the wildcard I really wanted,” Fanning said. “Obviously, I did Narrabeen last year but Bells is the one I was really aiming for. It’s a place that is really close to my heart, and if I was ever going to take a wildcard, it would be there, so I’m pretty fired up. Personally, I really like the wave at Bells. The speed of it, the wide open canvas, and the fact that it is a right hand point break. I love everything that comes with Bells, the history, the cliffs, the gathering of everyone down in the car park. It’s so awesome. It’s something that sits in my heart.”
The Australian surfing icon officially retired from professional surfing at the 2018 Rip Curl Pro. Prior to his retirement, Fanning spent 17 years competing on the elite CT. His illustrious tenure includes 22 Championship Tour victories, 11 Top 5 finishes, and three World Titles, cementing him as one of the greatest surfers and sportsmen in history.
“To go and ring the Bell for the fifth time, no one has ever done it apart from Gail Couper,” Fanning continued. “During my career I got close, but right now I just want to focus on putting on a good performance. My preparation when I was on Tour was non-stop training but this time around I’ve just been focusing on my surfing and making sure it’s up to the level of the best in the world.”
After taking a couple of years off to recover from a knee injury, Fanning was back in the jersey as an event wildcard at the 2021 Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona, marking 20 years since winning his first CT event — as a wildcard — at the 2001 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
CT Surfers Ready for 59th Edition of Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach
The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is the longest-running surfing event in the world, dating back to the Bells Beach Easter Classic in 1973.
Bells Beach has been the proving ground for the greats, and the list of Bells champions corresponds pretty closely to the list of all-time great surfers.11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), seven-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), event wildcard Fanning and surfing legends Lisa Andersen and Mark Richards have won the event four times each.
Australian icon, Gail Couper, is the surfer that holds the record for the most surfing trophies at Bells Beach. After becoming the first female surfer to win an event at Bells Beach in 1964, Couper has won the Bells Beach trophy another nine times. To this day, no surfer has been able to beat this record.
Bells Beach is also a sacred place, a place of cultural significance to the Wadawurrung people traditionally known as Djarrak. To honor and respect the local community, every year The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach begins with a traditional Welcome to Country and concludes with Wadawurrung and local indigenous surfers presenting the winner’s trophy.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Wildcards and Replacement Surfers Confirmed
Fanning was awarded the event wildcard through the event’s title partner, Rip Curl. Five other surfers were called into the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach to replace injured athletes.
Bronte Macaulay (AUS) will continue surfing as the WSL Injury Replacement for Caroline Marks (USA), who has withdrawn from the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach due to medical reasons.
Three-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) has withdrawn from the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and will be replaced by Barron Mamiya (HAW), who is currently sitting as World No. 2 alongside 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA).
Yago Dora (BRA) continues his recovery from his injury ahead of the season and will be replaced by WSL Injury Replacement, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF). Carlos Munoz (CRI) and Liam O’Brien (AUS) sustained injuries at Pipeline and continue their recoveries. They will be replaced by World No. 6 Caio Ibelli (BRA) and Mikey Wright (AUS), respectively. This will mark Wright’s return to the CT after announcing an indefinite break from professional surfing following last year’s Corona Open Mexico.
The two remaining wildcard spots for women and men will be decided by the local trials event. The trials are scheduled for Thursday, April 7 at Bells beach, and a total of 20 men and 20 women will fight for one spot in each division.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women’s Opening Round 1:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA), Gabriela Bryan (HAW), Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Heat 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW), Isabella Nichols (AUS), TBD
Heat 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRI), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Molly Picklum (AUS)
Heat 5: Johanne Defay (FRA), India Robinson (AUS), Luana Silva (HAW)
Heat 6: Malia Manuel (HAW), Tyler Wright (AUS), Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Opening Round 1:
Heat 1: Seth Moniz (HAW), Callum Robson (AUS), Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Zeke Lau (HAW), Imaikalani deVault (HAW)
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA), Nat Young (USA), Owen Wright (AUS)
Heat 4: Griffin Colapinto (USA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Mikey Wright (AUS)
Heat 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Samuel Pupo (BRA), Mick Fanning (AUS)
Heat 6: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Lucca Mesinas (PER), TBD
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Frederico Morais (PRT), Matthew McGillivray (ZAF)
Heat 8: John John Florence (HAW), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Jackson Baker (AUS)
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Joao Chianca (BRA)
Heat 10: Kolohe Andino (USA), Jack Robinson (AUS), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 11: Miguel Pupo (BRA), Jake Marshall (USA), Deivid Silva (BRA)
Heat 12: Barron Mamiya (HAW), Ethan Ewing (AUS), Morgan Cibilic (AUS)
For more info, visit WorldSurfLeague.com.