The Sydney Eastern Suburbs beach of Maroubra came alive today with competition getting underway at the 2017 Carve Pro, Men's and Women's Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 event. Competitors were tested with a constant onshore breeze creating textured faces on the 2-to-3 foot waves.
Early in the day, Perth Standlick made the short drive down from his home at Bondi to kick off his 2017 QS season. Standlick looked super relaxed at his neighbouring beach only catching two waves to win the heat. Standlick went ballistic on his opening ride smashing five huge backhand hits to post an excellent 9.00 point ride (out of a possible 10), the highest single wave score of the event so far.
"I haven't really been surfing much lately so I was just stoked to get out there," Standlick said. "It's really nice to have a contest at a place I'm really familiar with. I feel super comfortable here which helps. Being able to just cruise down the road and surf a contest is awesome and definitely helps with your preparation."
After a year hiatus from competition, South Coast charger Ty Watson is back hunting QS points in 2017. Watson got his campaign off to a perfect start taking out his Round 1 heat with a solid display of forehand and backhand surfing to progress into Round 2.
"It's always good to get a heat win in the first contest of the year," Watson said. "The waves are pretty tricky today so you have to be really lucky. I managed to find a couple of the better waves in that heat. I didn't compete at all last year so I'm looking forward to this string of contests especially now they are off to a good start."
One of the youngest surfers in the draw is young Byron Bay Prodigy Kyuss King. King surfed with more maturity than your average 16-year-old to win his Round 1 heat. He stayed patient in the sometimes testing conditions to pick the waves that offered him good sections. King displayed an epic rail game which allowed him to progress into Round 2.
"It's really hard work out there so I'm stoked to come away with a win," King said. "It's so cool to be surfing in a QS with all the older guys, I still do the junior events so this is a cool experience. I try and prep for my heats as I would in a junior event. I just keep an eye on the surf, surf a lot and relax as much as possible."
Northern Beaches native David Vlug made a return to professional competition in the 2017 Carve Pro. Since losing over 90 percent of his vision in a nightclub altercation in 2011, Vlug has been taking small steps in returning to professional competition and achieving his goal of progressing through ‘one heat' at a Qualifying Series event. Vlug notched up a decent 11.70 heat total in Heat 15 to finish in the runner-up spot behind Central Coast young gun Caleb Tancred.
"My whole goal was to make one heat in a professional surfing contest," said Vlug. "It's been such a long ride to get to this point and all I wanted to do was to move through the heat. After settling the whole ordeal late last year, I just thought I want to go back to competing and have a crack at what I may have missed out on in that time. I'm over the moon just to make the first heat."
Te Kehukehu Butler is one of New Zealand's most promising future surf stars and he showed why during his Round 1 appearance. Butler looked light on his feet, committing to big closeout maneuvers over almost dry rock, which impressed the judges who gave him the nod, ahead of countryman Mackenzie Bowden.
"I always feel a lot more comfortable when I'm in front in a heat," Butler said. "I find once I'm in front I can relax and focus on my surfing and build on my scores. It was a pretty slow heat to begin with but once the waves came it was fun. It looks like the waves will be alright throughout the entire window which is good."
Heat 1 of Women's Round 1 saw a top seed no show meaning the surfer at the top of the alternate list was gifted a birth in the main event. This lucky alternate was 13-year-old Brazilian Taina Hinckel. Hinckel made the most of her opportunity and took the heat by storm, dropping an excellent 8.00 ride toward her heat total of 13.50.
"The waves are actually really fun out there," Hinckel said. "I wasn't expecting to get into the contest so I'm really happy I did. This is my first time in Australia and I'm really enjoying it. I can't wait for my next heat, I really want to keep posting high scores."
French goofy foot Uhaina Joly showed huge commitment during Heat 3 of Women's Round 1. As the tide filled in the rock shelf on the shoreline became submerged meaning only the surfers with total commitment would attack the closeout section. No surfer showed more of this than Joly who ended up riding over the shelf on a number of occasions to win her heat convincingly.
"When you are competing you can't let the rocks come into your mind," Joly said. "I knew that they were there but blocked it out so I could finish my waves, which got me the scores I needed to win. The waves are pretty average at the moment but everyone is dealing with the same conditions so it is all equal."