The best of Bells at Easter

April 16, 2020 BY

THE Rip Curl Pro usually takes over Bells Beach at Easter, but that sadly wasn’t the case this year because of the coronavirus.

Instead, for your surfing fix this week, we’ve asked Times News Group photographer Peter Marshall to talk us through some of his favourite recent photographs of the WSL event.

My son William comes with me each year to the Rip Curl Pro to assist me with the photography – so he says, anyway. On this occasion he was assisting and in Heat 2, Round 4, 2017, Mick Fanning, John John Florence and Sebastian Zietz were battling it out in a big swell. In the dying seconds of the heat, Fanning was leading on 18.86 with Florence second on 18.14 and Zietz third. All cameras were on Zietz as he finished off his wave when my son tapped my on the shoulder and said “Quick, Dad, John John’s just taken off!” I swung my camera around to start capturing him just as he was flying down the line and got the perfect run of photos as he launched himself into the biggest alley-oop I’ve seen live. It was the one and only manoeuvre of the wave but it impressed the judges so much they gave Florence a 9.97 to beat Fanning and take out the heat. I was one of the only photographers to capture this as everyone was still following Zietz into the shore, and I know the dozen or so photographers around me failed to capture it. If it wasn’t for my “assistant” I would have missed this photo.


It was great to see local Jan Juc grom Xavier Huxtable come of age in 2019 and get a place in the Rip Curl Pro for the first time, after Griffin Colapinto withdrew from the contest with a knee injury – and what an introduction for Xav. In his first round, he was up against Kelly Slater and Filipe Toledo! This photo shows Xav at his best in the elimination round.

This shows Mick Fanning’s last pro event, as he retired after the Rip Curl Pro in 2018. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the fairy tale end for Mick as he was beaten in the final by Italo Ferreira. However, it was a good news story for Stephanie Gilmore, who won her first Rip Curl Pro since 2010.

A black shadow in the water scared the hell out of Jack Freestone, Owen Wright and Harrison Mann in the elimination round in 2019 and they all scrambled to the jet skis; understandably, given Mick Fanning’s encounter would still be in their minds. However, on investigation the jet ski operator found it was a big clump of seaweed. Freestone is on board.

Mick Fanning’s last pro event was the Rip Curl Pro in 2018. With thousands of people wanting photos of him, he wanted some solitude to perform his pre-surf meditation ritual, so he ran around to The Point to escape most of the crowd. Myself and a couple of other photographers gave chase and followed to get this picture, free of the crowd, of Fanning’s last meditation.

I’ve taken lots of photos over the years of Steph Gilmore and they don’t call her “Happy Gilmore” for nothing. Over the years, each time I called out to her she would always look at the camera and give me a big smile. 2018 was no exception, and she gave me a bigger than normal smile after her first win at Bells Beach in eight years.

Tyler Wright is all smiles after winning a quarter final in 2017 against Coco Ho. I like this photo as it shows a happy Tyler as she makes her way back up the beach and to the stairs surrounded by fans, media and security. It just shows how popular the Rip Curl Pro is, not just for the final but for all rounds and heats, both male and female.