An international field of Qualifying Series hopefuls met on Australia's Gold Coast Thursday for the kickoff of the 2018 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro. With the forecast promising good swell for the weekend, the possibility of scoring perfect waves at the legendary point break gave competitors all the extra motivation they needed to battle through Thursday's tricky Round One conditions.
On his first visit to Australia, Gabriel Adisaka from Brazil was excited to paddle out and surf a heat at the world-famous Burleigh Heads. He posted a total of 13.50 points to win the heat.
"The water is so nice and it is beautiful here so I'm having a good time," Adisaka said. "It looks like the waves are going to keep getting better over the next few days so I really want to keep making heats and still be competing on Finals day."
Japan's Kaito Kurokawa was Thursday's biggest standout. While others struggled to keep their speed Kurokawa skillfully weaved his way to the best power pockets where he unleashed some big turns. He backed up an 8.00-point ride with a 7.25 to collect a total of 15.25, which was the highest heat score of the day.
"It is actually a lot more fun out there than it looks," Kurokawa said. "I managed to find a few fun waves which was nice. I guess everyone is talking about the forecast ahead and it sounds like it could be really good. I'd be happy in any conditions as today worked me. "
Dakoda Walters arrived at Burleigh looking for experience in his first-ever Qualifying Series event. With low expectations on his own performance, Walters was hoping to make a heat or two and get a few waves at Burleigh. It's safe to say the young Aussie exceeded his own expectations winning his heat with an awesome display of fins-free surfing.
"That was so much fun -- even though the waves are tough it was really fun to surf my first QS heat and to win it is even better," Walters said. "I knew there was going to be a swell for this event so I thought it would be a good one to come and try and get some barrels. Today suited to me as I'm a bit smaller and lighter than the others so that was cool to have an advantage."
Kiwi surfer McKenzie Bowden has recently relocated to Australia's Gold Coast and was excited to compete at a QS in his new backyard. Although conditions were quickly deteriorating, Bowden did what he needed to move closer to the weekend Rounds, and the forthcoming swell.
"I knew it was going to be hard to find a couple of good waves out there so I focused on just getting one set wave," Bowden said. "Once I locked in a mid-range score I knew I was in a good position to progress. I'm stoked to have made that heat an am pumped for the weekend, the forecast is looking great so the waves should become more and more fun over the coming days."
As the Northerly wind intensified, the small waves on offer today rapidly deteriorated and event organizers were forced to go on hold. The event will resume tomorrow as officials look to complete Men's Round One and beyond.