Monday, March 28, 2016

Men's Rip Curl Pro Bells Update

Some serious swell arrived over the weekend for the Rip CurlPro Bells Beach, and the best surfers in the world greeted it with some fantastic performances in less-than-perfect Bells walls. We’ve seen more impressive performances from rookies and wildcards, as well as some big names going down, similar to the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast. Here are some highlights of the men's contest thus far:

Kelly Slater, who was eliminated early at Snapper, narrowly escaped a Round 2 upset before falling to Michel Bourez in Round 3. Slater fans are certainly feeling nervous that his subpar results this season could result in a truncated schedule for the 11-time World Champ. Was this the last time we saw Kelly at Bells? Let's hope not.

Mason Ho made some noise in this event last year, and he’s performing even better this time around. Ho has a versatile game and a unique style, and he used that to bounce Jeremy Flores in Round 2 and defeat the reigning World Champ Adriano De Souza in the following round. After a semifinal at Pipe in 2015, it’s clear that Ho knows he belongs in the water with the top CT competitors.

Following an early exit at Snapper, Mick Fanning looks extremely sharp. He could definitely use the points toward qualifying in 2017 since he won’t surf all of the events this year. However, it remains uncertain if he truly wants to return to the CT full time ever again. He was in the booth before the event started and he seemed extremely relaxed.

Sebastian Zietz and Kolohe Andino had a dramatic Round 2 heat that saw Seabass pull out the score he needed in the closing seconds of the draw. It seemed he was overscored, though, and Andino’s exit nets him a disappointing  25th following his runner-up finish at Snapper.

Speaking of Snapper, Quiksilver Pro champ and reigning World #1 Matt Wilkinson has looked really good at Bells thus far. A shot of him getting ready for a heat showed a different Wilko than we’re used to. He looked intense and focused, as opposed to the jovial guy we’re accustomed to seeing. Another big result for Wilko and we may have to start seriously talking about him as a World Title contender in 2016.

Matt Wilkinson has come out firing in 2016.
Courtesy of Rian Castillo
Jordy Smith has always performed well in powerful waves, and his Round 3 heat reminded anyone who may have forgotten that. He posted a 9+ that showcased his raw power in big walls, and he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on this season. Don’t forget that he was one of the best CT competitors just a few years ago and is healthy for the first time in a while.

Conner Coffin continues to showcase a rail game that is going to net him good results. He bounced Joel Parkinson in Round 3, and I remain extremely impressed by the rookie. Two more big upsets from rookies followed Coffin’s toward the end of Round 3, as Caio Ibelli upset John John Florence and Davey Cathels beat former World Champ Gabriel Medina. I thought Ibelli got dramatically overscored on his heat-winning wave against John John, but he surfed really well nonetheless. These rookies are for real.

Here is a look at the Round 4 non-elimination heats on the way:

Italo Ferreira vs. Nat Young vs. Julian Wilson: This is a really interesting heat. This is Young’s pet event, and he’s been great on his backhand. However, Italo Ferreira has been a monster on his backhand as well. Wilson is the best overall surfer of the three, making this heat extremely hard to predict. I’d lean Young here, but it’s really close.

Matt Wilkinson vs. Wiggolly Dantas vs. Mason Ho: The Wilko hype is real! In all seriousness, though, he looks like a guy that wants to win big this season. I’m not picking against him until he loses a heat or matches up with a top guy. Keep an eye on Ho, though.

Mick Fanning vs. Jordy Smith vs. Conner Coffin: This is a heat of raw power, and the one I’m looking forward to the most in this round. Of course, you have to favor Mick here, but Jordy and Conner both have games built for Bells. I can’t wait for this heat.

Michel Bourez vs. Caio Ibelli vs. Davey Cathels: This is probably the least splashy of the heats, but it’s still intriguing. Here we’ve got a pair of rookies matched up with a tour vet that has won multiple contests over the years. It never made sense to me that Bourez hasn't performed that well at Bells in previous years, and he may have figured something out over the weekend. I’m taking The Spartan after his win over Kelly in the previous round.

Follow Morgan, founder of Go Left, on Twitter @GoLeftSurf

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Women's Rip Curl Pro Bells Round 1 Recap

Round 1 of the Women’s Rip Curl Pro got underway at Bells Beach yesterday and we saw some early upsets before things settled down into predictability. Here are the Round 1 results:

Heat 1 - Bianca Buitendag defeats Stephanie Gilmore and Chelsea Tuach: Bianca got busy early, but when Gilmore put up an 8.00 about halfway through the heat I thought the three-time Bells champ had this locked up. However, Buitendag looked good on her backhand, as she always does, and she scored big toward the end of the heat to pull the upset. Tuach’s lack of experience at tricky Bells was evident, but she’ll only get better at wave selection with more time.

Heat 2 – Malia Manuel defeats Sally Fitzgibbons and Alessa Quizon: Another upset early in this event. The waves were really tricky in this heat, and Sally only got two legitimate waves. Malia backed up a good wave with a solid one, and that’s all she needed. Sally is yet to win a heat this season. I never thought I would be typing that here. She needs a Round 2 victory.

Heat 3 – Carissa Moore defeats Keely Andrew and Brisa Hennessy: The chalk prevails here. Carissa was solid yet unspectacular, but the waves were not conducive to the sharpest surfing in the world. Moore remains the favorite in this event.

Carissa Moore will look to ring the bell again.
Courtesy of
Heat 4 – Courtney Conlogue defeats Laura Enever and Nikki Van Dijk: Courtney dominated and dropped a 9.17 late in the heat despite Nikki interfering on the wave. She looked strong and powerful in some solid Bells surf.

Heat 5 – Tyler Wright defeats Sage Erickson and Coco Ho: Ho looked to be in control of this heat pretty late, but Tyler pulled out an 8.60 and that was all she wrote. I keep beating this drum, but Tyler’s power is a major advantage over many of the Women’s CT competitors. Bells is the perfect place for her to showcase it as long as there is significant swell on offer.

Heat 6 – Johanne Defay defeats Tatiana Weston-Webb and Bronte Macauley:  Defay looked smooth and stylish at Bells, which was not a common theme of this first round. Weston-Webb also surfed well and we know she’s comfortable in powerful waves.  

Follow Morgan, founder of Go Left, on Twitter @GoLeftSurf

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fantasy Picks for Women's Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

Here is a look at the Go Left Fantasy Surfer team for the Women’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach:

Carissa Moore ($10,000,000): She’s won the last three years at Bells and she’s the best surfer on tour. Need I say more?

Tyler Wright ($8,000,000): It’s hard to pick Tyler after her dominance at Snapper. She looks locked in this season, and I think she’s a legitimate threat to Carissa for the World Title. She’s got more raw power than any other competitor on the Women’s CT, and I love her at Bells.

Stephanie Gilmore ($6,000,000): Gilmore’s price tag has risen to $6,500,000, but I get a discount from carrying her over form my Snapper squad. It looks like she’s back in good physical condition this season, so watch out. She made the finals here last season pre-injury.

Malia Manuel ($4,500,000): Malia made the quarters at Snapper and looked solid in doing so. She’s available here for a nice price.

Bronte Macaulay ($1,500,000): I was thoroughly impressed with Macaulay on the Gold Coast, and she’s got a really cool style to her surfing. Can’t beat the price tag either.

Alternate – Brisa Hennessey : Take a chance on the new girl.

Follow Morgan, founder of Go Left, on Twitter @GoLeftSurf

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Women's Preview

The Roxy Pro Gold Coast kicked off the season recently and saw Tyler Wright dominate from start to finish. The Women’s CT now heads to Bell Beach for the Rip Curl Pro, and it should be an awesome event. Wright looks more focused than ever, and she seems to have a much more strategic approach to the 2016 season. She’s one-for-one under the tutelage of new coach Glenn “Micro” Hall, and Tyler definitely has the kind of power game that can thrive in big Bells walls. However, the Women’s CT is more competitive than ever, and earning back-to-back CT victories is certainly a tall task.

Reigning World Champ Carissa Moore fell to Wright in the semis at Snapper, and she’s surely going to be motivated to win at Bells. She’s won the last three years at the Rip Curl Pro, so betting against her seems like a risky decision. Still, there is so much talent on the CT right now that any heat can become an upset quickly. Carissa has to be the favorite at Bells, though.

Carissa Moore has won the last three years at Bells.
Courtesy of
It will be interesting to see how Sally Fitzgibbons rebounds from her first-ever Round 2 exit, which she suffered on the Gold Coast. That was a shocker, but a bounce-back performance from the Aussie would not be. She’s made the semis at Bells the last two years, and I would expect her to return again in 2016.

Don’t sleep on Stephanie Gilmore and Courtney Conlogue, as either of them could win at Bells. Steph made the final last year, while Courtney reached the semis. These two are elite surfers capable of winning the World Title this season. Bells should be a great show, and I must admit that I’m tempted to pick Tyler to win it all thanks to her rail game. However, as I said earlier, betting against Carissa is risky, too risky for my taste. I’ll take the reigning Bells champ here.

Follow Morgan, founder of Go Left, on Twitter @GoLeftSurf

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fantasy Picks for Men's Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

Here is a look at the Go Left Fantasy Surfer team for the Men’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach:

Mick Fanning ($10,750,000): Mick saw a surprising early exit at Snapper, and if he wants to qualify while surfing select events he’ll need a good result at Bells. He won this event last year, and I expect him to advance deep yet again.

Nat Young ($7,500,000): This is Young’s best event on the CT, as his backhand was built for hefty rights like Bells. I love the value here for a guy that always does well at this tour stop.

Joel Parkinson ($7,000,000): I get a discount on the Aussie vet here thanks to my picking him on the Gold Coast as well, as his price to add to a team is now $7,500,000. Parko has done very well at Bells in the past, and his smooth rail game should have plenty of room to operate on some nice Bells walls.

Kelly Slater ($7,000,000): I don’t think Kelly took kindly to being eliminated early on at Snapper, and I think we may seem him get on a tear at the Rip Curl Pro. How can you not take him at this price?

Matt Wilkinson ($5,500,000): Here’s another carryover from my Snapper team, so I get Wilko at a $1,000,000 discount. It will be awesome to see the Aussie donning the yellow jersey after his win on the Gold Coast. He historically has not done well at Bells, which is a surprise given his strong backhand. 2016 Wilko looks like a new Wilko, though, and the discount was enough for me to play him.

Kolohe Andino ($4,500,000): Andino is coming off a runner-up at Snapper, and he carries another carryover discount for me. I don’t necessarily expect him to thrive at Bells, but his price tag presented great value.

Conner Coffin ($3,500,000): I really liked what I saw from Coffin at Snapper, as he’s got an old-school rail game that should suit Bells well. I love his value here.

Michel Bourez ($4,750,000): I don’t know why the Spartan has not been a standout at Bells over the years, as he’s got the kind of style that should suit the location well. I needed to fill my last slot, and I liked his price, but it’s definitely a risky pick.

Alternate – Sebastian Zietz: Seabass fell off the tour officially, but we should see him in a multitude of events this season. He looked sharp at Snapper, and he looks like the safest alternate option. Mason Ho and Stu Kennedy are good picks for an alternate slot as well.

Follow Morgan, founder of Go Left, on Twitter @GoLeftSurf

Rip Curl Pro Bells Men's Preview

The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast kicked off the 2016 CT season with a thrill ride of upsets and chaos, and at the end of it all stood Matt Wilkinson, smiling and ready to don the yellow jersey for the first time in his career. The waiting period for the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach begins March 24th, and Round 1 holds some interesting heats.

Heat 2 – Julian Wilson vs. Stuart Kennedy vs. Adam Melling: Wilson, my pick to win the Quiksilver Pro, bowed out unexpectedly in Round 2, while Kennedy was the upset special of the event. Stu took down several of the biggest names on tour and advanced all the way to the semifinals at Snapper Rocks. His equipment was the talk of the event, and it will be interesting to see how he follows up a career performance. Is Julian ripe for another early loss?

Heat 4 – Gabriel Medina vs. Conner Coffin vs. TBD
Medina, like Wilson, experienced an early exit at Snapper, his coming in Round 3. He can’t afford a slow start to a second consecutive season, as it likely cost him the World Title last year. However, things won’t be easy with Coffin lurking in this heat. I was really impressed by Coffin’s power rail game at Snapper, and he should be able to unleash that even further at Bells, especially if it gets big. Medina is a dynamo on his backhand in big waves, though, making this a great matchup.

Heat 5 – Mick Fanning vs. Keanu Asing vs. TBD
It’s all about Mick here, as he was eliminated in Round 3 at Snapper in perhaps the biggest surprise of the event. Fanning doesn’t plan to surf all of the CT events in 2016, so he needs a big result at Bells to earn some serious qualifying points toward 2017.

Mick Fanning could use a good result at Bells to help him qualify for 2017.
Courtesy of MarkYourWavesSurf
Heat 6 – Adriano De Souza vs. Michel Bourez vs. TBD
The reigning champ looked good at Snapper, and he traditionally performs well at Bells. However, Michel Bourez has the kind of power game that can really look good in this event. Could we see an upset? I say no, but the matchup is intriguing. 

Heat 7 – Kelly Slater vs. Kai Otton vs. Alex Ribeiro
Kelly didn’t look great on the Gold Coast, as his equipment seemed a bit slow. There’s always the danger of a bad result at Bells cuing a truncated schedule for Slater this season, and no surfing fan wants that.

Heat 9 – Matt Wilkinson vs. Kolohe Andino vs. Miguel Pupo
Here we’ve got the two finalists from the Quiksilver Pro battling it out in Round 1. Wait, what? I was under the impression that the heats are created by ranking, so how is the current World #1 facing the current World #2 in the first round? I need someone to explain this to me.

Heat 12 – John John Florence vs. Jordy Smith vs. Jadson Andre
John John looked really good before being eliminated at Snapper, seeming to have a more strategic approach to his heats. That could spell serious trouble for the rest of the CT competitors. Jordy should be able to thrive at Bells thanks to his power, but does he have enough to upset Florence?

Follow Morgan, founder of Go Left, on Twitter @GoLeftSurf

Monday, March 21, 2016

Recommended Read: Barbarian Days

I recently finished William Finnegan’s book Barbarian Days, an autobiographical surfing novel. The tome is weighty (400+ pages in hardcover), but that’s not a surprise considering it spans several decades and the bulk of Finnegan’s life. It’s a nomadic tale of waves and foreign lands, something that will certainly appeal to those with an adventurous spirit and wanderlust. Finnegan’s prose is playful, impressively crafted but not flashy. He’s brutally honest at times, but he himself is not exempt from this stark form of assessing his surroundings.

Barbarian Days is a collection of experiences of some of the best waves on the planet. These breaks include Honolua Bay, Kirra, Ocean Beach and Cloudbreak, just to name a few, and there are plenty more. The stories wander from sparse South Pacific accommodations to teaching in Apartheid-era South Africa to dreamy tropical waves to brutal San Francisco winters. The waves may be the stars of the show in many ways, but the characters, many of them surfing companions of the author, enrich the story and humanize it in a way that a protagonist alone often cannot. From childhood friends to adult partners in wave-chasing to family, there is a brilliant spectrum of personalities that glue you to the page. Just as surfing has its lulls, so does Barbarian Days, but they’re short-lived and it’s worth the wait.

There are some fantastic passages in this work, many of which any wave-rider can relate to. “My utter absorption in surfing had no rational content,” Finnegan writes. “It simply compelled me; there was a deep mine of beauty and wonder in it.”

I would certainly recommend this novel to any surfer, and really anyone that has an appreciation for nature and adventurous forays into unknown worlds. You can find Barbarian Days here.

Follow Morgan, founder of Go Left, one Twitter @GoLeftSurf