Young stars lead as legends strive to make the cut
A pair of Australian surfers will aim to cement their spots at the top of the rankings as the World Surf League’s Championship Tour (CT) heads to their home country this month.
Meanwhile, a host of the sport’s all-time greats are under pressure to retain their places in the field of surfing’s top competition as they scramble to avoid the newly introduced mid-season cut.
Rising stars Jack Robinson (25 years old) and Molly Picklum (20 years old) will enter the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach wearing yellow jerseys as the top-ranked competitors in their respective divisions.
Robinson opened the season in fine form by winning the Billabong Pro Pipeline and has followed up with podium finishes at Sunset Beach and Portugal.
He’s followed in the rankings by a trio of Brazilians: this year’s Portugal winner Joao Chianca, 2022 Bells champion Filipe Toledo and 2017 runner-up Caio Ibelli. Californian Griffin Colapinto rounds out the top five.
In the women’s draw, Picklum has emerged as a surprise frontrunner early in just her second professional season.
After narrowly missing the mid-year cut in her first season, the Terrigal native earned her first professional tour win at Sunset Beach and reached the quarter-finals of the season’s two other events to earn top spot.
Three-time Bells winner and five-time world champion Carissa Moore is second in a tie with American Caitlin Simmers, ahead of reigning Bells winner Tyler Wright in fourth and Brazilian Tatiana Weston-Webb in fifth.
Spectators’ attention will also be lower down the rankings this year following last year’s introduction of the mid-season cut, which will trim the field of surfers for the second half of the season.
Australian legends Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore and three-time Bells winner Courtney Conlogue in the women’s draw, and American icon Kelly Slater on the men’s side, are among the surfers on the wrong side of the line ahead of the Australian event.
Only the top 23 of the men’s field (from 35 present surfers) and 10 women (from 18) will have guaranteed spots at WSL events from the cut-off, before which Bells is the penultimate event.
The Australian leg of the CT – which starts at Bells before heading to Margaret River in Western Australia later this month – is the final set of events before the cut.
The competition period for Bells started on Tuesday this week and is open until April 14.