Toledo, Wright ring the bell at Bells
TWO first-time winners have been added to the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach trophy, as the World Surf League (WSL) event was run and won in its return to the iconic break after a two-year absence.
Tyler Wright and Filipe Toledo had previously been runners up at the Championship Tour (CT) event, which moved from the Bells Bowl to Rincon on Easter Sunday in clean but dropping surf with a big crowd watching on.
Wright claimed her 15th CT event win and her maiden Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach title. She was the form surfer of the event and posted excellent scores throughout, with the final being no different.
In the final, Wright took on three-time Bells winner and reigning five-time WSL champion Carissa Moore in what was their third Bells decider together.
With Moore clinching wins over Wright in 2013 and 2014, Wright found redemption from the first exchange, as she posted an 8.93 (out of a possible 10) in the opening seconds then backed it up with an 8.00 and left Moore chasing for the remainder of the heat. It is Wright’s first CT victory since the opening event of the 2021 season and has elevated her to second position on the world rankings.
“Honestly this means the world right now,” Wright said. “I want to start by thanking the Wadawurrung people for having us here on their Country this week. This is an emotional win for me. I’ve won two world titles but this win feels almost as big for me. I’ve been competing here and walking down those stairs for 12 years now and to get the win, with a lot of my family here, I’m over the moon and beyond stoked.”
“It’s been a long four years for me recovering from what I went through (post-viral syndrome) and I’m only just feeling like myself in the water again.
“There’s been multiple times where I just wanted to give up. I worked so hard to be here, and I’m just so beyond grateful to have the support I had, and the love and the care as well. It is more than a win, it’s the only event I ever really wanted to win and here I am, and I’m pretty over the moon and beyond stoked.”
Toledo finished second to John John Florence at Bells in 2019 and the natural footer has a brand of surfing that suits Bells – whether aerials at Rincon or carves on the Bowl, Toledo has it all and it was on full display all week.
He was up against 2022 CT rookie Callum Robson, who took down opponents including Mick Fanning and Jack Robinson in his charge to the final, but he fell to the perennial title threat as Toledo – who turned 27 the day before – claimed his first Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach win and top spot on the world rankings.
“Finally we are back at Bells,” Toledo said. “The last few years we haven’t been able to come here because of everything that has been going on and we’ve missed you, Bells. I’m really happy to be back here, it’s been an amazing week. I couldn’t be happier with this birthday present.
“After I beat John (John John Florence) I had that extra confidence going into the next few heats, which was exciting. It was cool to share a final with Callum. I’ve been coming here for nine years trying to get a bell and this guy is in the final in his first year, which is crazy. Really impressive. This is hard, it’s hard to keep the momentum, and the rhythm going from contest to contest so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Jan Juc’s India Robinson was one of two local heroes in her first appearance at Bells as a CT rookie. She finished ninth overall after being eliminated by Stephanie Gilmore in the quarter-finals and is eighth in the world rankings.
Tully Wylie, also from Jan Juc, was the other, winning his spot in the men’s lineup after a victory in the Rip Curl Pro Trials. He faced incumbent world no.1 Kanoa Igarashi and Lucca Mesinas in the opening round and did not progress further.