Houshmand, Simmers win Rip Curl Pro titles at Bells

Rookie Cole Houshmand and teen sensation Caitlin Simmers have made it a southern Californian sweep, winning their maiden Rip Curl Pro titles on a dramatic finals day at Bells Beach.

Houshmand beat his close friend, longtime rival and San Clemente neighbour Griffin Colapinto 13.50-12.80 in the men's final.

Colapinto came into the fourth stop of the 2024 World Surf League (WSL) season sitting atop the rankings, having won the previous event in Portugal.

But it was the 23-year-old Houshmand who emerged victorious on Wednesday, becoming only the third men's goofy-footer this century to salute at the storied Bells break.

Cole Houshmand has become one of the few goofy-footers to ring the famous bell.

"I just told (Colapinto) that this is what we dreamed of, since we were kids competing," said Houshmand, who came into the event in danger of missing the WSL's halfway cut, but is now ranked No.8 in the world.

"It's not many times you get into a final against your best friend and a mentor like Griffin.

"I just really wanted to enjoy it.

"At the same time it's like there's no one I want to beat more, but there's no one I'd rather lose to. It's kind of a weird mindset."

Houshmand made the early running with a 7.00-point wave which turned out to be the best of the final, although no one was surprised when Colapinto hit back hard to briefly reclaim the ascendancy.

But after changing boards at the midway point, Houshmand  held his nerve to close out the victory.

"I honestly don't think it's going to sink in for a while," he said.

"I've been visualising this every day for the last two weeks, ringing that bell, and I guess it works."

Simmers left it very late before edging past France's Johanne Defay 12.77-11.60 in the women's final.

The 18-year-old caught what turned out to be the decisive wave with only 15 seconds remaining.

Caitlin Simmers
Caitlin Simmers celebrates her maiden Bells Beach title.

"I wish we could have been trading off eights the whole final but it was like a really grindy final," said Simmers, who replaces Defay at the top of the world rankings heading into the next round at Margaret River in mid-April.

"I wish we could have had one of those classics where we were doing big cutbacks and carves on every wave, but it just came down to the last wave and I guess Jo didn't have a choice.

"There was a three-wave set, she went on the second one and there was another one.

"Somehow there was a third wave in the set and it just gave me a good section.

"It's everything you've thought about, but in those moments you don't think, you just do it. It played out for me."

Simmers edged defending world champion and fellow American Caroline Marks in the semis, while Houshmand ousted South African Matthew McGillivray to advance to the men's decider.

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