THERE will be no Rip Curl Pro at all at Bells Beach this year, and Rip Curl and the Surf Coast Shire have both expressed their disappointment.
The event will be back at Bells next year and beyond, however, with a three-year extension revealed this morning.
The World Surf League (WSL) announced on Sunday that the Easter slot on the Australian leg of the Championship Tour (CT) would not be at its traditional home at Bells Beach but would instead move to a new event at Newcastle, to start on April 1.
At the time, the WSL said it was working with state governments to finalise the other three Australian CT events, including at Bells Beach, but confirmed in a statement this morning they had made the “extremely difficult decision” to cancel the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach for 2021.
“The decision was made after the WSL was unable to secure a pre-approved bubble in Victoria ahead of the event, leaving significant risk attached to sudden public health measures in reaction to COVID-19 such as lockdowns, state border restrictions, and event cancellations.
“The WSL respects and understands the decision of the Victorian Government in this challenging time.”
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the pro’s cancellation in 2020, it means local surfing fans will have waited three years before they next see the CT surfers carve up the Bells break.
Rip Curl chief brand and marketing officer Neil Ridgway said the surf label was excited about welcoming the world’s best male and female surfers back to the Rip Curl Pro this Easter.
“Tyler Wright is leading the women’s rankings and Gabe Medina is second so it was all set to be a doozy for us 40 years after the Big Bells Swell of Easter 1981.
Unfortunately, the WSL had to cancel the 2021 event due to the risk of a sudden change in COVID-19 restrictions.
While we are completely gutted for all of the local fans and businesses, keeping the Surf Coast Shire and wider Victoria COVID-19 free is the top priority.
The Rip Curl Pro will be back at Bells next Easter as per our contract with WSL and we guarantee the party will be epic.
“In the meantime, The Bell stays here in Torquay where it rightfully belongs and we are stoked the World Tour is up and running again. Congrats to the WSL for getting the Tour back up and running in this challenging time for world sport.”
Surf Coast Shire mayor Libby Stapleton said the council appreciate the efforts by the WSL to ensure the Australian component of the CT could occur at all given the constraints brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Of course we are disappointed that this year’s Rip Curl Pro will not be going ahead at Bells Beach during Easter but we fully understand the decision.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of many of our major events, including last year’s Rip Curl Pro and the international Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and
“While our 2021 Rip Curl Pro might not be able to occur, we welcome the WSL’s announcement that it will be back at Bells Beach in 2022 and into the future.
“Bells Beach is an iconic leg of the world tour and the winner’s honour roll reads like a who’s who of world surfing.
“The event also injects about $8 million dollars into the Surf Coast Shire economy over the Easter holiday period, and the global exposure it provides for our region contributes significantly to visitation.”
The WSL, Rip Curl and the Victorian Government were joint signatories on the three-year extension of the CT at Bells.
“The Rip Curl Pro is known around the world and loved at home – and it’s great that it will be returning to Bells Beach in 2022 and for at least two more years after that,” Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakua said.
“Bells at Easter is a pillar of our major events calendar and one of the reasons it’s the best in the country.”
The other two CT events on the Australian leg – the Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro and the Corona Open Gold Coast presented by Billabong – remain listed as “tentative” on the WSL’s website and will be run at some point between April 12 and May 26.