John John Florence reacts after winning the 2019 Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, Victoria.
John John Florence reacts after winning the 2019 Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, Victoria.

Florence fires for first Bells Beach title

HAWAIIAN surfing star John John Florence and American Courtney Conlogue have won their respective Rip Curl Pro titles at Bells Beach in Victoria.

Florence beaten Brazilian Filipe Toledo in a nail-biting Bells Beach final to win his first Rip Curl Pro title.

Toledo needed a 6.98 when he caught his last wave with 12 seconds left.

His supporters on the beach cheered Toledo's ride but the judges gave him only a 5.90 and Florence won 14.30 to 13.98.

It also gives Florence the rankings lead after the 2016 and 2017 world champion missed much of last season because of a knee injury.

Florence shone earlier on Saturday in his headline quarter-final win over reigning world champion Gabriel Medina and then his semi win over 2017 Bells Beach winner Jordy Smith.

He was the standout in the pumping 2m-plus conditions, billed as the 50-year storm, after he suffered a close call in Friday's big surf when washed close to the rocks.

But Florence was scratchy early in the final and at one stage needed a 9.33.

He pegged Toledo back and a 7.63 wave score with 10 minutes left gave him the lead, which the Brazilian could not take back.

On a day of high drama, American Courtney Conlogue won her third Bells Beach crown, beating giant-killer Malia Manuel in the women's final.

Brazilian Italo Ferreira stormed off the event site after an interference call ended his title defence, while Australian Ryan Callinan upset 11-time world champion Kelly Slater in the quarter-finals - potentially the legend's last competition at Bells Beach.

Callinan then suffered a last-gasp loss to Toledo, with the Brazilian also coming hard late and his winning wave score announced after their heat finished.

It was Callinan's first semi-final appearance at Bells Beach and the wildcard entrant had to delay his flight to Japan for a qualifying tour event.

Earlier, Ferreira was furious after the judges called interference against him.

Smith had priority in their quarter-final heat when Ferreira crossed in front at the start of a wave.

While there was conjecture about whether it was justified, Slater said the rules were clear.

Ferreira was fuming as he returned to shore before the heat ended.

After several minutes and some thumping noises in the athlete ready room, he walked briskly up the hill and out of the contest venue, still wearing his wetsuit and with a towel over his head.

"I feel for him, you know - no one wants to win like that or lose like that," Smith said.

Slater, 47, was asked after the loss if this is his competition swansong at Bells Beach.

"Possibly. We'll see," he said.

"I don't know - it was funny sitting out there, thinking it could be my last one. It was kind of sad."

- AAP

News Corp Australia

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