Day 1 of the 2017 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro has kicked off at the iconic Australian pointbreak of Burleigh Heads. Although Burleigh wasn't offering its picturesque world-class walls it's known for, the world's best Qualifying Series competitors were able to put on a great show for the massive Australia Day Crowds. Event organisers made the most of the bumpy, one-foot waves on offer to complete men's and women's Round One.
The light-footed surfing of Brazilian Wesley Leite made the tough conditions at Burleigh look dreamy. Leite stayed super busy taking the most waves of the heat. The strategy paid off with the goofyfooter finding a few open sections to belt and post the highest heat total of the event so far, a 16.50 (out of a possible 20) which included the highest single-wave score, an excellent 9-point ride (out of a possible 10).
"I have been surfing on the Gold Coast for the last few days in similar conditions so I'm feeling loose in these waves," Leite said. "I always train in all types of conditions so I always feel ready for what is offered up to us in a competition. To me it is all the same."
Another goofyfoot competitor who faired well in Round One was Spain's Juanjo Fernandez. Fernandez has been preparing for the QS in Australia for the last 3 months. He opted to change up his equipment to suit the smaller, compact conditions. Fernandez attributed his heat win to the time spent surfing The Pass in Byron Bay day in and day out in conditions similar to those today.
"I have been staying in Byron Bay for a while and surfing at The Pass which is a similar wave to this," Fernandez said. "I also chose to surf a smaller, thicker and wider board today which helped me gain speed in the small, slow conditions."
South African Jordan Maree has been on a roll in 2017 with a 5th-place finish at the World Junior Championship and a few heat wins at the Carve Pro. He continued his form in Round One of the Flight Centre Burleigh Pro posting a solid heat total of 14.00. Maree's vertical backhand attack sees him progress into Round Two.
"I'm feeling in a really good rhythm at the moment," Maree said. "I have been competing a bit this year and have had a good result which has been great for my confidence. I am always aware that every heat is different so you just have to take each heat as it comes."
Lennox Head local Jack Murray only just snuck into first position in his Round One heat after trailing for its majority. The young naturalfooter looked as if he would be pipped in Round One until he found a long small wave that he threw the kitchen sink at, slicing and sliding his way down Burleigh Point. The judges rewarded Murray with a score that put him into top spot.
"Those heats are always tough", Murray said. "I felt like if I waited a good one would have to come but it never did. The one that I did take didn't look that good but it kept reeling down the point and I had nothing to lose so I went as big as I could. Luckily it worked and I made the heat."
Kiwi Mackenzie Bowden was slow to get going in his Round One heat, trailing in third place until the last five minutes. Knowing he needed something solid, Bowden hung onto Priority until he zoned in on a rare set wave and went to town on it. Smashing a number of forehand gaffs to earn a near excellent 7.75 point ride and move into the 1st progressing spot.
"It's always a bit nerve racking waiting for the sets on a day like this," Bowden said. "I tried to stay patient today as I usually try and catch a million waves in a heat and miss all of the good ones. Today I just wanted the sets and I got them. I'm feeling good and my board feels amazing which always helps with your confidence."
In her fourth competitive start for 2017, young Victorian India Robinson took control of her Round One heat early. Robinson locked in her 12.50 heat total early and continued to keep busy and attempt to build on it. Fortunately for Robinson there was no need to build as she hung onto the lead until the final buzzer to progress into Round Two.
"You just don't know what the waves are going to do today," Robinson said. "I just went for as many waves as possible and found a couple with a corner which was good. I've been competing a lot in the last month so just want to keep building momentum through these QS events."
Alyssa Lock from Tweed Heads played a smart game in her Round One heat. Lock kept busy catching anything that moved. She locked in a mid-range heat total of 9.10 and progress through to Round Two.
"These are the sort of conditions when people make mistakes," Lock said. "I knew that any wave could materialize into a score so I just went for everything. When the waves are like this I tend not to treat it any different to a heat when the waves are pumping. You just have to assess the conditions, make a plan and stick to that plan."