Surfest Newcastle ran through another long day of competition to take full advantage of the pulsing five-to-six foot (2 meter) surf on offer. The opening Round of the Hunter Ports Women's Classic was completed as well as the first 18 heats of Round 2 of the Burton Toyota Pro, as competitors fought hard for the valuable ASP 6-Star Qualifying Series ranking's points that are on offer.
Joel Parkinson, 2012 ASP World Champion and defending event champion, survived a last second scare in his opening heat at Surfest. The high tide conditions saw the surfers struggle to post big scores and Parkinson uncharacteristically finished the heat in second place behind fellow Gold Coaster Brent Dorrington and only 0.14 ahead of third placed Ty Watson.
"It's good to dust the cobwebs off, I haven't surfed a heat for a couple of months," Parkinson said. "You're only as good as your last result and I pretty much got smoked by Brenno (Brent Dorrington) in that one. Hopefully he can keep going through the draw and I can go with him. I love this event, of all the events that I did last year Surfest was one of the best, not only because I won, but because of that great day of surfing we had in the Harbour. It's moments like that that I love about surfing events, and it's people like Warren Smith and Burton Toyota that will keep me coming back to Surfest."
Mereweather's Jake Sylvester had his hometown crowd on their feet when he took out his heat at the Burton Toyota Pro. Sylvester perfectly positioned himself to catch some of the best waves in the heat, but that is only half the job, once on the waves he left nothing to chance, carving and tearing the waves apart to finish with a two wave heat total of 15.40 (out of a possible 20). Sylvester finished ahead of Evan Geiselman, who advanced in second position, while Fredrick Patacchia and young American Kanoa Igarashi were eliminated in third and fourth.
"I couldn't really hear the scores, but I could hear all the boys cheering at the end of my waves," Sylvester said. "I have surfed this place pretty much everyday of my life, so it's good to be out there knowing where to sit and what waves to catch. It was great to be up against Kanoa (Igarashi) again, I surfed against him in the Final of the Pro Junior at Surfest last year, it's great to see him back in Newey. Then to also be up against guys like Freddy Patacchia and Evan Geiselman is unreal, it's cool to be out in the water with them and give them a run for their money."
Maui's Granger Larsen posted a monster 9.60 (out of a possible 10) when he stroked into a nice looking wave and then unloaded two beautifully destructive turns, winning the heat and advancing into the next round with Cahill Bell-Warren also advancing in second position.
"When I heard my score I was surprised," Larson said. "They gave me a nine and I was so stoked! Cahill (Bell-Warren) got a really good wave before me and that made me nervous, then I caught the wave behind and it was super clean. My first turn was a normal snap and the wave tweaked me a little and I was in perfect position for the second turn. It was this big wall and I think I threw a bunch of spray and that's what the judges like. I hope the waves hold up here and I can make a run at it."
Australian up-and-comer Codie Klein surfed a brilliant Round 1 heat at the Hunter Ports Women's Classic. Klein scored two of the three highest wave scores of the morning including a near-perfect 9.33 (out of a possible 10) and backed it up with an excellent 8.43 to comprehensively defeat her opponents.
"I watched the surf for a long time and most of the girls were sitting in the wrong spot," Klein said. "I saw all these fun rights going through and being from the Gold Coast I was keen to go on the rights. I tore my meniscus about four days before the American and European leg of the ASP QS last year. I was out of the water for five months. It ended up being a blessing in disguise, I love and appreciate surfing so much more now. It's great to be back in a jersey - I love Surfest, I've been coming here for years and I feel so at home."
Stephanie Gilmore, five-time ASP Women's World Champion, didn't hit the water in the Hunter Ports Women's Classic today as she's seeded into Round 3, she did however attend a press conference to talk about her first competitive hit out of 2014 this week at Surfest.
"I'm feeling good, injury free and I'm ready to go," Gilmore said. "The women's tour at the moment has so many talented girls who are all pushing to be at the top. It's fantastic. In the past there's only been one or two up there and now there's six or seven who are worthy title holders. I'm in fifth at the moment which is a new position for me to be in, I'm on the back end and I'm going to try to work to get back to that number one spot. I love Surfest and Newcastle, it's the perfect place to start my year."
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