CARVING up the waves at Winkipop near Bells Beach in his first round heat of the Rip Curl Pro was Tweed Heads? Mick Fanning who
CARVING up the waves at Winkipop near Bells Beach in his first round heat of the Rip Curl Pro was Tweed Heads? Mick Fanning who

Fanning fires up in early round at Bells



TWEED Heads' Mick Fanning is clearly out to make amends for his disappoint in the Quiksilver Pro after posting an impressive 9.0 wave in his heat of the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach yesterday.

The contest, which was moved around the corner from Bells to Winkipop, saw Fanning joined by Coolangatta's Joel Parkinson to lead an Aussie charge at the historic event.

Fanning, in an impressive display, easily won his heat scoring 15.23 but will have to find something special if he is to match a white hot Kelly Slater and equally impressive Andy Irons.

Slater and Irons dispelled any reports they were sick leading up to the Rip Curl Pro.

Hawaii's Irons scored a two-wave combination of 17.83 - including the first perfect 10 of the 2006 men's season - while American star Slater easily won his heat with a 17 total in the 1-1.5 metre waves.

Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) officials cited illness as the reason for their no-show but yesterday the star surfers claimed they were simply tired and rundown from a gruelling travel schedule.

"I never told anyone I had a virus or anything like that," the 34-year-old Slater said.

"I haven't been sick. I've just been really worn out from travelling, working and doing other things beside surfing."

Irons, 27, was just as adamant he was never going to miss the chance to ring the famous bell trophy for a third time after winning in 2002 and 2003.

"I think it's all the flying," Irons said. Irons caught the best wave of the day en route to his perfect 10 which set the platform for victory over Californian rookie Bobby Martinez and local wildcard Nic Muscroft.

"It's pretty wild, the first 10 (of the year)," said Irons, who went from top to bottom of the monster wave on every turn.

Defending champion Trent Munro and Quiksilver Pro finalist Taj Burrow were also among the Aussies who went through to round three after winning their heats.

Munro was stoked after securing an 8.33 on his last wave but not so happy he broke his favourite surfboard.

"It's not totally broken, just a really bad crease. It's off to the cockpit, as they say," he said.

"I was lucky on that last wave to better myself and not totally break my board in half."

Fourteen of the 16 first round heats were staged yesterday. Organisers expect the swell to drop slightly today before picking up again tomorrow.



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