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Bells '23 - Fantasy Preview

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Bells '23 - Fantasy Preview

Last updated April 2, 2023 by Balyn McDonald

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

While John Donne’s knowledge of the famed Torquay break was undoubtedly left wanting, his reference to the shared brotherhood of man surely makes for a passing, if not laboured, reference to the current state of the tour.

Can the tolling of the mid-season bell for the likes of Kelly, Kanoa and Steph in fact diminish all surfers? Isn’t the possibility of a finals series – let alone Olympics at Teahupo’o – without John or Medina a loss for us all?

Bells 2023 has some massive implications for a lot of big-name surfers. Regardless of conditions, head-to-head match-ups, or even fantasy results, Bells promises some significant ramifications for professional surfing over the next two years.

Is that real enough for you? Great! If not, scroll down and check our prize announcement; that’s as real as Bells events can get. Now, let’s look at our fantasy options…


How would you like to get a sense of the Bells break via a drone fly-over presented by Coastalwatch and narrated by Nick Carroll? Or how about a Bells overview from Kelly Slater?

If that’s not enough, then I’m not sure what else I can possibly tell you. It’s a right-hand, partially reef-bottom point break that traditionally favours deeper/heavy water surfers who can draw out their bottom turns, time their connections, and hold their rails. Recent years have also shown that there is a place in at Bells for progression, depending on the conditions and surfer’s ability to fit their progression naturally into the overall wave. Think Filipe’s 10 or John’s 9.97 in 2017.

It’s worth noting that surfers with success at Sunset or Haleiwa are generally well-suited to the break. This surely bodes well for tour leader Jack, as well as sophomore sensation Joao and reigning champ Filipe.

As usual, I’ll hand over to the doyen of surf history and knowledge, Matt Warshaw for his take on the wave:

Right-breaking Australian reef wave located three miles southwest of Torquay, Victoria. Facing the chilly and powerful Southern Ocean, and flanked by limestone cliffs, Bells Beach—named after the Bell farming family—has for decades been a venerated surf break. Bells is at its best from March to October, as Southern Ocean storms frequently produce six- to eight-foot surf, with waves sometimes topping 15 feet. Rain and wind are common at this time of year.

The wave at Bells is sloping and wide-based, strong but rarely hollow; deep tuberides at Bells are rare. The break consists of three main sections: 1) Little Rincon, located to the south, needs a higher tide and a sub-six-foot swell. 2) Outside Bells, the main break, is a long, fast, evenly formed wall that begins to take form when the surf is about six foot. 3) The Bowl is the steep final section of the Outside Bells wave. Centerside, located 150 yards outside of Little Rincon, is an inconsistent right that eventually closes out. Southside, located further around the Bells Beach headland, is a left-breaking wave that spills into a nearby bay. Winkipop, the reef just east of Bells, is a spectacularly fast and hollow right-breaking wave, and generally regarded as superior to Bells proper. (Four-time world champion Mark Richards once called Bells “a dud; the most overrated wave in the world.”)


The official forecast isn’t actually up yet (surprise!), but the overview from other forecast sources looks far from inspiring:

There is little swell forecast above shoulder-high in the lead-up to Easter. People more knowledgeable than myself say that the second week of the contest window holds a little more promise, but that’s still hazy forecasting at best at this stage. Watch the updates closely.

So, Bells 2023 may be less ‘Macking Jordy and John John’ and a little more ‘Scrappy Filipe and Rio’. Don’t say you weren’t warned…


The big news from Rip Curl is that team icon and former tour stalwart Owen Wright (AUS) has announced he will retire from competitive surfing following the 2023 Bells Beach event. Wright will wear the CT jersey for the last time as a wildcard, allowing him to celebrate his amazing competitive career with a bang, rather than a mid-season-cut wimper. He has told the WSL that he will continue pursuing his passion for surfing and helmets despite the retirement announcement. 

Johanne Defay (FRA) will make her first CT appearance of the year as she has recovered from an injury that kept her away from competing in the first three events of the season. Dylan Moffat (AUS), the highest-rated Challenger Series surfer from Australia, will replace Jadson Andre (BRA). Carlos Munoz (CRC) will once again be the injury replacement for Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR).

The winners of the women’s and men’s trials will receive the additional wildcards into the event. 

The iconic combination of an Occy bottom-turn at overhead Bells.
Tom Curren in the WSL Heritage Heat during the 2019 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

Two of the sport’s most influential surfers, Tom Curren (USA) and Mark “Occy” Occhilupo (AUS) will compete at Bells in a (yet another) ‘special’ Heritage Heat during the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach event window. The two legends of the sport were are known for their genuine Bells rivalries during the 1980s, followed by manufactured rivalries over recent years. Occy emerged victorious over an indifferent Curren in their most recent Heritage Heat at Bells in 2019. While the heat promises little in the way of fired-up exchanges, I’m sure most of us will still watch to see our childhood heroes grace the Bells walls again.

Heat Draw

With the Seeding/Elimination round format of recent years, R1 heat draws have become less and less important for pre-event fantasy analysis. That said, it’s always good to see the seeding, the draw, and the match-ups:

2023 Bells Metrics

Season = data from 2023 championship tour events
Win % = percentage of heats won
AHS = average heat score
Right = data from events held in right-hand breaking conditions
Point = data from events held in point break conditions
4-6' = data from heats run in 4-6' wave height conditions
BB = data specifically from Bells Beach events
Avg Place = average finishing place for event (lower place is better, as 1st is an event win)

*data taken from every event on the 2013-2023 WCT tours
Surfer NameSeason Win %Career Win %Right win %Point win %4-6' win%Season AHSCareer AHSRight hand AHSPoint AHS4-6' AHSBB Avg PlaceBB Win %BB AHS
Owen Wright51.7252.5854.4355.0612.7712.7813.4913.09959.2613.22
Caio Ibelli69.2345.8649.2540.0040.9110.7611.2412.5212.5810.661450.0013.80
Ezekiel Lau16.6737.5041.6745.1644.686.5310.9311.4812.7510.9710.560.0013.03
Michael Rodrigues42.8645.0746.8840.0043.907.4010.0110.5911.579.922120.0010.26
Jordy Smith62.5060.7158.1463.5556.4611.2113.1314.0414.7412.976.62568.4215.51
Italo Ferreira62.5063.4062.0055.5663.7210.3913.0013.6013.8812.987.869.5713.53
Leonardo Fioravanti61.5441.7441.0335.0050.009.5810.8911.6912.3411.6219.6666666733.3311.68
Gabriel Medina60.0071.0064.1066.6771.6912.1813.9013.5214.4013.748.71428571460.0013.43
Griffin Colapinto75.0059.0258.4950.0055.5612.2712.1612.9112.9612.091520.0012.67
John John Florence66.6767.7665.6662.3467.2412.6214.5815.0214.8314.527.28571428674.0715.18
Kolohe Andino28.5749.8348.9643.4252.147.2012.1012.3312.7712.171638.8912.83
Kanoa Igarashi44.4452.3853.1648.0050.0010.0511.3512.4812.5811.4017.836.3612.44
Yago Dora63.6451.3343.2444.4452.0810.4611.4110.7211.6311.152125.0010.88
Filipe Toledo83.3362.5068.5366.3864.5311.2513.2514.2415.0513.396.28571428669.7014.75
Connor O'Leary50.0042.9834.6937.9341.079.8511.3711.1611.8611.4115.6666666733.3311.37
Kelly Slater50.0058.9857.1455.3257.987.7613.4413.4314.0513.1810.7142857154.5513.17
Jack Robinson83.3367.8266.6787.5078.1312.7912.8113.4214.5512.52380.0013.97
Matthew McGillivray44.4441.9446.1522.2238.4610.3911.1212.2311.3610.91330.008.50
Ethan Ewing66.6751.1456.7654.5544.4410.6011.8613.1813.2011.641457.1412.66
Seth Moniz55.5651.8146.6730.7736.368.7610.6810.6310.779.622140.009.09
Carlos Munoz42.8640.0025.0050.0040.006.447.717.7311.347.27
Maxime Huscenot14.2920.
Miguel Pupo62.5040.0034.1834.8534.629.6911.1911.2412.7811.1016.235.7112.07
Nat Young55.5644.5051.7245.4548.549.0312.3113.2013.3012.547.559.2613.65
Ryan Callinan62.5046.8550.0040.9142.5910.6011.4911.7511.8811.341555.5612.79
Samuel Pupo62.5051.1642.8650.0050.009.4310.6910.8911.8510.511740.0011.50
Jackson Baker42.8641.9438.4640.0046.1510.2110.1611.6810.8310.64966.6712.49
Dylan Moffat33.3310.07
Barron Mamiya57.1450.0056.2525.0033.339.2011.4011.5112.0610.461750.0013.25
Rio Waida60.0058.8250.0066.6750.009.469.809.1211.3410.29
Liam O'Brien62.5060.0050.0075.008.679.2210.848.94
Jake Marshall50.0040.0042.8620.0028.5710.088.9610.4810.498.941733.3310.39
Joao Chianca82.3566.6766.6750.0054.5513.4513.3514.8914.8312.451750.0014.83
Callum Robson63.6455.8158.8266.6752.948.469.9411.1812.579.60283.3313.24
Ian Gentil50.0050.0033.3350.008.788.788.199.77

Pick ’em

Filipe Toledo – the forecast is similar in some ways to 2022, when Filipe won. Add to that his final in 2019, as well as three more quarter-finals, and Filipe looks fairly solid. AHS and win% data also support his selection.

Jordy Smith – Jordy’s AHS for Bells is 15.11. That’s across 13 appearances. He’s a past winner and is well-placed across every relevant metric for the event. The only things working against him are a lack of form, as well as a poor swell forecast. Even so, Jordy’s AHS in 1-4′ waves is surprisingly high.

John John Florence – best win % and AHS for the event. His chances of a win increase as the forecast wave height grows, so watch the swell.

Callum Robson – one event does not a trend make, and yet it was the caliber of opposition that makes Cal’s 2022 final stand out; Jack Robinson and Mick Fanning both fell to the rookie, while Frederico and Miggy also felt the sting. CalTex looked pumped after a big event at Portugal, and we know that he’s a dangerous prospect when he’s fired up.

Nat Young – While some of Nat’s data is old (he had a gap between 2017 and 2022), he’s proven himself to be a consistent performer, with a final, semi and quarter in his 6 attempts. He’s never finished lower than 13th, and he is solid for all important event metrics.

Courtney Conlogue – She’s rung 3 of the past 5 Bells, and she’s seeded so low that you can have her for a song.

Flick ’em

Kanoa Igarashi – Kanoa has had 5 Bells campaigns, finishing 13th, 25th, 25th, 9th and 17th. No quarters and a win ratio of around 36%. Sucks to be below the cut, especially with a poor Bells history.

Owen Wright – His data is OK here (with an impressively consistent quarter-final #6 earned in 2022), but much of the good stuff is ageing (like him), plus he has no form, no real motivation, and the tour is moving on from a time when he used to dominate. In short, 2023 Owen is a great story, but don’t expect the same legend that sent Kelly to the limit or became a glutton for Fijian 10s in the noughties.

Miguel Pupo – Miggy has surfed here 5 times since 2013, and he finished 13th, 25th, 13th, 25th until last-year’s 5th. He has one of the lowest win % and AHS for the event among those with 5+ events.

Kolohe Andino – the Cali prodigy (no, not Griff) has plenty of Bells events under his belt. The problem is: he’s never made it to the quarters. Not once. He has a 1-in-3 heat-win average, and his AHS is about as promising as his seeding.

Michael Rodrigues – to be fair, two events isn’t a massive data set, but MRod has earned a 25th and 17th in his two appearances at Bells. He has a top heat score of 12.83 across all heats.


Here’s the thing about data-driven fantasy selections: they almost always guarantee you a safe score. What they don’t earn you is a winning score, a score that is only gained through defying the popular choices with an against-the odds Sleeper. Here are 4 options that we have our eyes on:

Top Tier – I say it nearly every event, but a top-seeded Sleeper is a pretty stupid idea. It’s my stupid idea, though, so I’ll run with it. Callum Robson screams sleeper. I feel like people still don’t see him for the consistent finisher he is.

Mid Tier – I’m picking Nat Young. I’m banking on people ignoring my advice above and having a short memory on how well he’s done out here.

Low Tier – I did it last year, but I’ll throw Jackson Baker in my Sleeper group again. He’s got a reasonably lighter R1 heat, and he’s been down shredding the Bowl for days already, and I think his surfing really suits the wave.

Fantasy Surf Sessions

We’ve truly outdone ourselves for this event:

The 2023 FSS Bells fantasy champion wins a new EBomb steamer from none other than Rip Curl themselves!

The fantasy winner can also lay claim to a 12-month subscription to to keep their digital stoke levels maxed.

The fantasy loser gets a prize too; 12 months of surfing goodness through a Surfing Life digital subscription, just to take the sting away.

Best of luck,


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