The Qualifying Series Australian leg has continued on into its third straight event with the Telstra Stores Tweed Coast Pro getting underway at Cabarita. With a field of over 200 competitors, the days are long and many surfers are forced to deal with less than favorable conditions -- but that's part of life on the QS.
Brazilian Jihad Khodr was a force to be reckoned with on the elite Championship Tour in the late 2000's. After falling off tour and losing a major sponsor, Khodr stuck to only competing in events near his home in Brazil. After his family and friends recently rallied behind him, Khodr is back competing on the QS and looking dangerous as ever. He surfed his first heat since 2013 today at Cabarita and dominated it. Khodr's trademark fins free power hacks were on point and he seemed stoked to be back in a jersey.
"I haven't travelled to compete since I was on the Championship Tour in 2009," Khodr said. "It's so exciting to be back competing. I love the ocean and I love surfing and just the feeling of competing. I have always been a fighter in my life. I fought to get back to competing and I'll fight to make my heats. It is really cool to be back in Australia and this area especially. Last time I was here was for the CT at Snapper. I'm just thankful that I am competing again and that my family could help me get here."
Jayke Sharp is an Aussie who had a seriously impressive junior career. He not only competed in the World Junior Championship, he also took down CT superstar Julian Wilson in a Pro Junior Final at the iconic Burleigh Heads. After the 2013 Australian Open, Sharp took some time off to focus on his building career. In 2017 he has rekindled his love for competing and is looking lethal as ever. The powerful natural footer was on a tear at Cabarita on Day 1, slicing and gouging the wind swept right-handers.
"I'm really enjoying being back at a contest," Sharp said. "I moved from Coffs Harbour to Sydney to do my carpentry apprenticeship, so I kind of gave up on the competitive surfing thing for about five years. I moved home at the start of last year and started surfing again and just began to feel really good with it. After getting a year under my belt I just thought it would be cool to have a crack in a comp and If I go well, I go well and If I don't, I don't. I've got really low expectations at the moment but if I keep making heats I might have to reassess where I'm at in my competitive career."
Another former CT star surfing in the early rounds at Cabarita was Nathan ‘Hog' Hedge. Always the tenacious competitor, Hedge opted to surf on his solid backhand to post his heat-winning total early in the heat. Once he was comfortable, the powerful goofyfooter picked off a few rights and reminded everyone why he was a CT staple for so many years.
"There is a bit of a rip-bowl right out there which is a bit of fun," Hedge said. "Surfing in the early rounds is great for a bit of practice and getting waves and heat time under the belt. Training and surfing helps but heat time is the most important thing for your confidence. I love surfing heats and I love competing so the more heats I surf the better. I have a lot of small goals I want to achieve in my surfing. My surfing is always evolving and improving which is one of the best things about it. I'm a born competitor at heart so doing these comps is what comes most natural to me. I just love it."
Timothee Bisso isn't a name that has been around for long but the Caribbean native has certainly been gaining attention. Bisso, who finished runner-up at the 2015 World Junior Championship in Portugal is in Australia preparing for an all out assault in the 2017 QS. On Day 1 at Cabarita, the goofyfooter continued his incredible form from the Burleigh QS where he finished third.
"I just try and stay positive," Bisso said. "A lot of people would look at the waves today and talk about how bad it is but I think that puts you in a bad frame of mind. If you stay positive and have fun it shows in your surfing and the results will come. This was the attitude I took to Burleigh and it worked so I will use it here."
Tru Starling from the Northern Beaches of Sydney surfed a seriously busy heat in Round One with the young natural footer catching nine waves in the 20-minute heat. Starling struggled to find a score of substance until she found a right-hander that hit the bank perfectly and offered her three solid turn sections to rip into.
"I was really happy to make that heat," Starling said. "It's really windy and tricky out there so I struggled to find a good one. The bank is good so you can find good ones out there. It is a completely new experience for me surfing here as it is my first time. I have surfed around Cabarita but not this spot. It is really nice."
13-year-old Brazilian sensation Taina Hinckel continued her great run in the Aussie QS leg posting the highest heat total of Women's Round One. Hinckel looked in rhythm amid the windy conditions, going vertical and attacking the lip for her scoring waves.
"It is actually really fun out there," Hinckel said. "It is similar to places back in Brazil that I surf so I felt at home. I like it in the QS events when the waves are small because it suits me more than the older competitors. I'm loving it here and can't wait to get back out there for my next heat."