Eleven-time world Champion Kelly Slater is set to tackle potentially dangerous waves as high as 15 metres at Bells Beach for the World Surf League event.
The 47-year-old beat Australia’s world title contender Julian Wilson 11.84 points to 7.20 on Thursday to move into the round of 16 Heat 1 at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach on Victoria’s southern coastline.
Slater will compete again on Friday afternoon against Peterson Crisanto, who won an all-Brazilian encounter against Michael Rodrigues.
He said he would have to search around for a bigger board to tackle whatever Bells offered up, as forecasters warned of monstrous waves hitting Bell’s Beach throughout the day.
Word among riders was that the surf conditions would match those of the historically high waves at Bell’s in 1981, forcing Slater to jokingly reference the 1991 cult movie Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze.
“It could be a 20-year swell from Point Break. It’s always when you put that expectation that it doesn’t happen but I think it’s too big for Bells we’re going to be trying to catch the inside waves,” he said.
Not only has @johnjohnflorenc just dropped a 9.50, but this swell is STILL BUILDING 🙌
Tune in LIVE to watch the #RipCurlPro in massive Bells Beach on https://t.co/ie0ZfNdmHw, Facebook Live or the WSL app! @ripcurl pic.twitter.com/GepcFOHsO3
— World Surf League (@wsl) April 26, 2019
“Tomorrow’s round is going to be dodging bullets,” he said on Thursday afternoon.
“I don’t know that it’s going to be favouring anybody.”
By 12pm on Friday, 8-metre waves greeted the last of the champions, with warnings that the swell was going to continue to increase over the next four hours up until the day’s event finishes at 4.40pm.
It's all happening. The #RipCurlPro Bells Beach has been called ON! Coverage begins at 7am AEST, in about 15 minutes! Watch live on https://t.co/ie0ZfNdmHw, the WSL app, and Facebook Live! @ripcurl pic.twitter.com/vpBoqMMbud
— World Surf League (@wsl) April 25, 2019
Victoria’s Bureau of Meteorology said a powerful cold front, which is expected to move across Bass Strait, may bring swells as large as 14 or 15 metres on Friday afternoon.
They could last well into the evening.
Senior forecaster Chris Godfred said apart from the freakishly large “odd wave out in the open water”, surfers may also see swells as high as 8 or 9 metres before conditions eased over the weekend.
“We could see combined seas and swell rising to 8 to 9 metres out in the open water in western Bass Strait, and in the range of 5 to 7m in central Bass Strait, which is between Cape Otway and Wilsons Promontory,” he said.
Conditions in South Australia will begin to deteriorate from Friday morning with five-to eight-metre swells hitting exposed areas of the coast.
Defending champion Stephanie Gilmore fell in the quarter-finals on Friday morning as monster waves hit.
Beaten by Hawaiian Malia Manuel, Gilmore described the conditions as “terrifying”.
“I survived the 50-year storm today,” she said.
With a huge swell predicted to build at Bells throughout Friday and Saturday, Manuel switched to a bigger board and claimed a 10.77 points to 8.70 triumph against the seven-time world champion.
It was the 25-year-old’s first win over defending Rip Curl Pro title-holder Gilmore at Bells, giving her increased confidence that this could be the year she challenged for a first overall world title.
“I’d love it to be,” said Manuel.
“I’m working on it.
“I’m trying to get better at surfing and make smart decisions.
“Trust my instincts and have instincts trust me.”
Manuel’s semi-final opponent will be US teen sensation Caroline Marks, who downed Brisa Hennessy from Hawaii on Friday morning.
Surf Life Saving warnings
Meanwhile, Surf Life Saving SA chief officer Damien Marangon has urged everyone going in or near the water to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of those around them.
He also urged those tempted to head out into the surf on Friday and over the weekend to perhaps think again.
“Things can change quite quickly and dramatically,” Mr Marangon said.
“As attractive as it may be to go out there, the thing that has to come first is your own safety and that of your loved ones.”