Rip Curl Pro; Caitlin Simmers secures first title at Bells Beach


Teenage phenom Caitlin Simmers secured a maiden title at Bells Beach and the world No.1 ranking in stunning fashion, reeling in Frenchwoman Johanne Defay in the final 20 seconds of a thrilling final in the Rip Curl Pro.

The 18-year-old America literally needed to nail the final wave to ring the trophy and took advantage of a pivotal late mistake from Defay to secure a remarkable win and the yellow jersey

Simmers took down defending world champ Caroline Marks in an all-American semi before a slow start in the final demanded a barnstorming finish and she blitzed two crucial waves in the final three minutes of the decider.

As the clocked ticked down through the final minute, Defay held the lead and priority. With 25 seconds left she took a wave that deteriorated, giving Simmers once final shot to score the 5.5 point ride she needed to get the win.

Given her chance, Simmers scorched her way across the 2m wave, nailing three perfect moves that the judges rewarded with a 6.67 and the victory to pick up her second win of the season.

“Johanne rips and I was like kind of thinking on my last wave ‘this could be it’ and I’d just got my other wave, so my legs were heaving and I was paddling as fast as I could,” Simmers said on the beach straight after her win.

“I was almost too late for (the final wave). I feel like in this sport you always have to believe in yourself because this stuff happens.”

Simmers took the yellow jersey off Aussie Molly Picklum, while Defay missed her chance to be the first Bells winner from France.

On a day of double-delight for the US, World Surf League tour rookie Cole Houshmand then capped his golden run from the lower ranks to the top of the dais with a victory over great mate and world No.1 Griffin Colapinto in the men’s final with his maiden victory.

Houshmand entered the Rip Curl Pro ranked 26th and looking to avoid the mid-season cut but stormed through the event and survived a broken board in the final which he needed to change to get his hands on the iconic Bells Beach trophy.

“I was on a magic board and I buckled it in the quarter-final,” the 23-year-old from California said.

“I got it fixed and when I hit the lip on one I felt it crack so I came straight in and honestly there was still so much time left. I wasn’t tripping too hard.

“I tried to stay in the moment and the board worked good. This is probably the best day of my life.”

The wins came after two successive lay days and in cold and windy conditions that were the exact opposite of how the competition began last week.