Mick Fanning at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Shorty/Red Bull Photofiles

Half a century since some blokes on boards first assaulted the now-famous Bells Bowl, the 2011 Rip Curl Pro is set to run this week, hopefully in equally historic fashion. Champions from decades past have gathered, the swell forecast is looking promising and, after a month off, the boys of the ASP World Tour are chomping at the bit to get going.

“The Bells event turns 50 this year,” marvels Mick Fanning (pictured at Bells above). “That’s crazy. It makes the Rip Curl Pro - the longest-running event in surfing - even more special this year.”

“I always love heading to Bells,” continues Fanning. “The wave is one of my favorites on tour when it’s firing. It might not be a top-to-bottom barrel, but it’s a wave that forces you to rethink your approach and I enjoy the challenge. I’ve got some good boards this year, and after the Goldy I’m chasing a big result to get my campaign back on track.”

The Road to Bells

For the most part Fanning has posted up at home on the Gold Coast, surfing Snapper Rocks, working on subtle design changes to his boards and of course, training. Meanwhile, other Red Bull surfers have been preparing for Bells in their own ways.

"Wednesday is looking pretty fun at Bells… But plenty of tennis and golf until then.” -Julian Wilson

“I just got back from Johanna,” tells Michel Bourez, who’s been on the ground in Victoria for the past week and passed up a solid south swell at his beloved Teahupoo to be there. “It was the place to be for waves, that's for sure. But that should all change as these new swells start to show. I’m feeling good, excited for the contest to get going.”

“It’d be pretty cool if we get a 50-year swell to go with the event,” agrees Julian Wilson. Currently the forecast is showing a modest three-to-four-foot swell to show Wednesday, then it gets re-enforced by a new swell that tops out around six feet on Friday, which could make for some unreal surfing.

“Bring those corduroy lines into the bells bowl,” froths Wilson. “Fingers crossed. Wednesday is looking pretty fun down here at Bells… But plenty of tennis and golf until then.”

Check out Surf Chronicles below, covering the 2010 ASP stop at Bells Beach:

Who Will Ring the Bell?

While Fanning, Bourez and Wilson have all had their feet firmly planted down under, Jordy Smith’s been scoring back home in Durban.

“Just had amazing waves at New Pier,” he marveled before leaving for the airport (where his flight to Torquay was upgraded from Business to First Class). Smith should be timing his arrival with the swell just perfectly.

“I've been waiting for Jordy to click with Bells,” says Fanning. “I think this could be the year.”

As for other contenders? Fanning points to Kelly Slater - “last year’s champ, full of confidence, hard to stop” - and perennial runner-up Taj Burrow - “the best surfer on the Gold Coast, a former Bells winner, and also surfing with a lot of confidence” - as two of the front runners.

As history has shown us, anything can - and often does - happen at Bells Beach. The action starts later this week, so get ready.

Follow Mick, Jordy, Julian and Michel on Twitter for more, and follow Red Bull for the latest news and info.

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