50-year storm! Bells braces for gigantic swell
DEFENDING champion Stephanie Gilmore has booked a spot in the quarter-finals of the world tour event at Bells Beach as surfers prepare to battle freak surf conditions at the competition, which must end on Saturday.
Monster waves up to 6m (20 foot) - during what has been dubbed a once-in-50-year storm - have been forecast for the world tour event.
"It sounds terrifying, the 50-year storm," Gilmore said after her third-round heat.
"I don't want to hear about it. It's going to be really interesting.
"Tomorrow looks huge, almost too big, so I don't know what they're going to do."
Officials opted to run the women's event first on Friday, with the men eventually getting into the water.
"That swell we've all been waiting for is starting to show here at Bells and we are excited for an epic three days of competition to close out this event," WSL competition director Kieren Perrow said.
Thursday's 1-2-1.8m waves (four to six foot) are set to increase in a swell that been liked to the memorable conditions of 1981.
Gilmore downed Australian youngster Kobie Enright on Friday to advance to the quarters.
But it was a less than perfect heat for Gilmore, whose worst result at Bells is a quarter-final finish.
She made a rough start to the heat and fell on one of her early waves before finding her momentum to beat Enright 14.23 to 10.76.
Also advancing was triple world champion Carissa Moore, like Gilmore a multiple winner of the annual world tour event in Victoria.
Moore's experience showed against Australian rookie Macy Callaghan, who was beaten 11.20 to 15.50 by the American.
The three-day wait for the new swell was worth it.
The women surfed overlapping heats for the first time at the event with Lacey Peterson also earning a quarter-final spot along with fellow Americans Coco Ho and Courtney Conlogue, who beat local Nikki Van Dijk in a close encounter to advance.