Another massive day of action has gone down at the iconic Australian point break for Day 2 of the 2017 Flight Centre Burleigh Heads. Conditions improved this morning with light winds grooming the small 1-2 foot waves. Event organizers plowed through another 24 heats completing Round Two of the Men's and Women's.
After narrowly missing out on qualifying for the elite Championship Tour (CT) at the end of last season, former World Junior Champion Isabella Nichols has kicked off 2017 with a new fire for competing. Nichols pulled on the contest jersey for the first time this season in Heat 1 of Women's Round Two and made it clear she means business. In the small, soft conditions Nichols' sharp forehand attack looked flawless as she posted the highest heat total of the event so far, an excellent 17.50 (out of a possible 20).
"I was a bit concerned about the conditions before that heat," Nichols said. "Once we paddled out there was a flurry of waves so it was all good, and everyone has to deal with the same conditions. The end of last year was a bit frustrating but it has really motivated me for this year. I have been training and surfing a lot and am excited to compete in 2017."
Kingscliff local Codie Klein just barely progressed through her Round Two heat at the Flight Centre Burleigh Pro. The powerful goofyfooter found herself in third spot and holding priority with only a few minutes left. But Klein stayed strong down to the wire until a decent set wave came her way. Codie unleashed a number of solid backhand snaps and was rewarded a single wave score of 7.25 (out of a possible 10) to progress into Round Three.
"Moments like that are what you train for," Klein said. "It's stressful needing a score to progress when you have priority and the waves are slow. Staying calm in those situations is something I have been working on a lot recently so to put that work into practice was good. It was great to see my work pay off in a heat."
Former CT competitor Dimity Stoyle is no stranger to the Flight Centre Burleigh Pro having taken the event out in 2015. Stoyle has returned in 2017 to get her competitive season off and running. But it wasn't all smooth sailing for Stoyle who only just progressed in second with a mid-range heat total of 12.25.
"I haven't had a heat for so long so felt pretty shaky in that heat," Stoyle said. "I feel like I was lucky to make that heat, my wave selection was poor and it was a tough heat. It is great to be competing at Burleigh again. The waves aren't amazing at the moment but whenever you enter the event there is always the chance of getting classic Burleigh with no one out. If that were to happen it would be the best contest in the world."
Fresh off winning three events in a row, current women's World Junior Champion Macy Callaghan took to the water at Burleigh in Round Two as the event reigning champion. Callaghan barely missed a beat, posting a winning heat total of 11.25 and utilizing priority to take control of her competitors.
"I've been surfing a lot of heats recently so i'm feeling good," Callaghan said. "It isn't the sort of Burleigh we would all love to have for this contest but it is still fun. I was just enjoying myself out there which always helps in heats, I think. If you are having fun things will tend to go your way."
Californian goofy footer Nolan Rapoza was surfing in fast forward during his Round Two heat at Burleigh. With a light onshore breeze puffing up and the small surf on offer, Rapoza looked light and agile on his equipment. He posted an excellent single wave score of 8.00, progressing through the Round with a solid heat total of 14.25.
"I thought I saw a few good one before the heat and then once I got out there it seemed to slow down," Rapoza said. "Eventually I thought 'I'm just going to go for anything' and got that 8.00. Once I had that, it was all good. I swapped onto a board I haven't surfed much but it is just a bit smaller and flatter so it suited the waves today. It felt good and really fast."
Brazilian Victor Mendes showed there is a way to surf nearly perfectly in the small challenging conditions that Burleigh offered on Day 2 of competition. Mendes found one of the longer walls of the day and went to work on his backhand, smashing snaps and throwing spray to post a near perfect single wave score of 9.75 and a heat total of 17.50 - the highest of the men's event so far.
"I wasn't expecting to find a wave like that," Mendes said. "It just kept offering sections so I just kept doing turns and then all of a sudden, I was almost at the beach. It felt really good and I'm really stoked with how I surfed that heat."
Making the short drive up to Burleigh from Coolangatta was Mitch Parkinson for his first heat in the Burleigh Pro in a few years. Parkinson relished in the small conditions but only managed a mid-range heat total of 9.85 to progress into Round Three.
"It was a long wait for the good ones but when they came they were pretty fun," Parkinson said. "It would be amazing if there more waves on offer but it‘s just good to be surfing a comp at Burleigh. I missed the entry for last year's comp so I'm stoked to be in it this year."
Another Coolangatta local who made the trip to Burleigh today was Sheldon Simkus. Simkus was unstoppable in his first competitive appearance of the year. The stylish natural footer posted an excellent 9-point wave with a number of clean front-side maneuvers.
"That was super fun out there," Simkus said. "Being able to compete at an event at home is really special. It's so relaxing just waking up in your own bed and being in an area you're super familiar with, it makes it easier for sure."