The Rip Curl Pro Bells Just Got Canceled - Stab Mag
Four-time Bells winner Mick Fanning with a traditional line in the Bowl, 2017. Photo: WSL

The Rip Curl Pro Bells Just Got Canceled

“Why is the state government allowing the tennis to go ahead and not the Easter Rip Curl Pro?”

Words by Michael Ciaramella

Yesterday, it was revealed by The Age that the WSL’s long-held Rip Curl Pro Bells has been canceled for the second year in a row. This time, the cancelation came as a result of the Victorian government’s failure to guarantee accommodation for an incoming international flight of professional surfers. According to a WSL spokesperson, local officials were too busy dealing with the quarantine situation of the Australian Open of Tennis to provide a sufficient answer to the World Surf League.

So, the WSL audibled.

“We were not provided with the assurance to land the plane by the Victorian government and we understood and respected that position as we needed an answer right at the time the tennis issue was unfolding in early January so clearly, that was going to be challenging to achieve,” the league spokesman said.

“We understood why a decision to land our charter in amongst the tennis issues was not possible but we needed a solution for our sport to stay alive in 2021 and we were very fortunate that NSW was able to provide this to us at extremely short notice.”

Some Surf Coast locals are aggrieved by this news, as the Easter-time event brings an estimated $7-8M to the region annually.

soli Bailey gets his face painted
The Torquay community welcomes aboriginal Tour surfer, Soli Bailey, to the Bells event in 2019. Photo: WSL

“All the locals, they share the same disappointment. Some are happy given the COVID-19 health concerns, but there are many who are bitterly disappointed also given it’s a tradition of 60 years,” Surf Coast Shire councillor Paul Barker said.

Liberal MP Sarah Henderson had even harsher words for her opposing party members: “I say shame on the state Labor government for mismanaging this issue so badly. Why is the state government allowing the tennis to go ahead and not the Easter Rip Curl Pro?”

The WSL’s general manager, Andrew Stark, shared the locals’ disappointment.

“We obviously love Bells Beach, we love that event. But the first event this year, due to the pandemic and the challenging circumstances, has to happen in NSW because that’s where the charter’s landing,” he told Today on Sunday.

John Florence does a big air
John Florence an a new approach to the Bells Bowl. Photo: WSL

As reported several weeks ago, the WSL has a private plane scheduled to leave California in early March and land in Sydney. From there, all surfers and Tour adherents will spend 14-20 days in a Sydney hotel (depending on local quarantine rules at that time), after which time they will be able to begin their string of competitions.

The WSL has stated their intention to run a minimum of four events during their Australian leg, but exactly where those events will run remains unclear. As reported two days ago, an event in Newcastle was added to the Tour schedule following protests from the Lennox Head community, who did not want a WSL event to run at their famed point. The Newcastle event is scheduled to run over the traditional Bells Easter window, from April 1-11.

Following Newcastle, the WSL is scheduled to head directly to Margaret River, Western Australia, then to Coolangatta, Queensland for the final event of the Australian leg. However, it’s possible that following the recent Bells cancelation, the WSL will attempt to squeeze in another New South Wales event between Newcastle and WA to achieve their desired four-event minimum.

Naturally, all plans are relatively tentative at this time.

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