Bells Beach specialist Sally Fitzgibbons has surged straight into the quarter-finals at the Rip Curl Pro, dominating a high-quality encounter in excellent waves.
Two of the Australian’s six world tour victories have come at the famous Victorian surf break and she is now right in the frame to make it a hat-trick.
Fitzgibbons won Sunday’s round-three heat with a score of 18.37, pitching American Courtney Conlogue (17.00) and Australian tour rookie Nikki van Dijk (15.93) into knockout fourth-round encounters.
“That is a big bonus,” Fitzgibbons said.
“In the last couple of events, I’ve surfed each round.
“You make do with whatever situation you’re thrown into but you want to keep those legs fresh.
“I hope I can just keep producing something a bit different for the judges to look at.
“I know I’ve got a bit more left in the tank.”
Countrywomen Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright were just about as impressive as Fitzgibbons as they also powered through to the last eight.
Five-time world champion Gilmore grabbed a high-scoring 9.17 wave late in the final heat of a marathon day, giving her a combined score of 17.44 and victory over fellow Australian Dimity Stoyle and South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag.
Wright, last year’s tour runner-up, racked up a combined score of 16.93, proving far too good for American Lakey Peterson and Australian Laura Enever.
Coco Ho (15.87) produced an upset win in an all-Hawaiian round-three heat, edging out reigning world champ Carissa Moore and rising star Malia Manuel.
Earlier in the day, Matt Wilkinson took down close friend Adrian Buchan to advance to the third round of the men’s competition.
The battle between the two surfers from the NSW Central Coast was a close one, with Wilkinson winning 15.63 to 14.16, even though Buchan had the highest individual wave score of 8.33.
“I was pretty excited for that heat, we’ve surfed together so much,” said Wilkinson.
The reward for Wilkinson was a third-round encounter with three-time world champion Mick Fanning.
Australians Kai Otton, Mitch Crews and Adam Melling and defending champion Adriano De Souza were among the other round-two winners.
De Souza opened the day in 1-1.5m waves with a high-scoring 16.84 to 13.76 victory over American Brett Simpson.