Wright into Rip Curl Pro second round

Unflustered by a couple of early falls, world championship pacesetter Tyler Wright has powered into the second round of the women’s Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.

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The Australian’s off to a flying start in 2016 after winning the season opener on the Gold Coast last week, as she chases her first world crown.

She carried her form into day one at Bells on Thursday, racking up a combined two-wave score of 15.43 points to overcome Hawaiian Coco Ho (14.20) and American Sage Erickson (7.76).

“I knew that the lines I was taking were the correct lines. It’s just that sometimes the wave throws up a little section you can’t see because you’re already halfway through the turns,” Wright said after twice falling off her board early in the non-elimination heat.

“I just backed it off a touch so I could finish and complete a wave.

“But I was comfortable the whole time.”

Wright was the only Australian heat winner on Thursday, with six-times world champ Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons pitched into sudden-death second-round encounters.

Bianca Buitendag from South Africa edged Gilmore in the opening heat, while Fitzgibbons was pushed into second spot in her heat by Hawaiian Malia Manuel.

The other round-one winners were reigning world champion Carissa Moore from Hawaii, American Courtney Conlogue and France’s Johanne Defay.

Mick Fanning will not start the defence of his Rip Curl Pro men’s title until Good Friday.

Organisers decided not to begin the men’s event on Thursday because much bigger waves are expected during the Easter long weekend.

Three-time world champ Fanning will take a sabbatical from the pro tour after the Bells Beach event is over.

He decided he needed a break following a tough 2015, which included a shark attack in South Africa, a marriage break-up and the death of his brother.