n surfer Mick Fanning is the fan favourite at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.Mick Fanning’s Bells Beach swansong is tracking perfectly as some of the biggest names in surfing wipe out around him.
The n great progressed to the fourth round with his third-round heat win on Monday morning, but world No.1 Julian Wilson and defending Rip Curl Pro champion Jordy Smith were the latest high-profile casualties.
Wilson and Smith bookended Monday’s six heats with major upset losses before competition was called off for the day.
In the women’s draw on Sunday, reigning world champion Tyler Wright and world No.1 Lakey Peterson also were eliminated.
Defending Bells Beach champion Courtney Conlogue is still recovering from a foot injury.
So out of the six biggest names based on current titles and rankings, men’s world champion John John Florence is the only surfer still in contention at the Rip Curl Pro.
And 11-time world champion Kelly Slater remains out of action with his broken foot.
Of course, the centre of attention at the Rip Curl Pro this year is Fanning, the three-time world champion and four-time Bells Beach title winner who is retiring after the event.
“It’s pretty overwhelming … I’ve actually been very busy,”‘ he said.
“Any spare moment I get to myself, I’m just having a nap.”
The 36-year-old was mobbed on the shore at Bells Beach again after beating in-form Hawaiian Sebastian Zietz.
“When you draw someone like ‘Sea Bass’, I would have been happy if that was my last heat with him,” Fanning said.
“He’s someone I really respect and he has a lot of fun; we were actually chatting out there, which I never do.
“I just want to try to put on a performance. I feel like I haven’t really done much yet.
“I just hope we get some more waves and I can put on a show; get my old rig moving one more time.”
n world tour rookie Wade Carmichael opened Monday’s heats with his stunning win over Smith.
The 25-year-old from the NSW Central Coast had to progress through the sudden-death second round before he dispatched the South African star.
Carmichael has lofty ambitions for this week.
“It’s only one heat, an event is six or seven heats,” he said.
“So you have to put a whole thing together.
“People can get lucky in one heat, so you have to try and run with it.
“I want to go all the way, let’s win that bell.”
Wilson, who won at the season-opening event at Snapper Rocks, fell to American Patrick Gudauskas.
n stars Owen Wright and Matt Wilkinson and Tahitian Michel Bourez were the other round-three winners, with Florence featuring in the six heats to come when the men’s event resumes.