NewsFlight Centre Burleigh ProSara Wakita

Japan's Sara Wakita Leads Women's Pack at Burleigh Heads

The wait for a solid east swell has continued on Day 2 of the Flight Centre Burleigh Pro with small conditions plaguing one of the world's most iconic point breaks. The tough conditions didn't detract from the action with some solid performances going down in men's and women's Round Two in front of the massive Australia Day weekend crowds.

Caleb Tancred progresses through Round 1 at the 2018 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro Caleb Tancred throwing buckets to finish runner-up in his Round Two heat. WSL / Tom Bennett

The opening round of the women's division saw some solid scores posted, despite the tricky conditions. A closely fought battle between Japan's Sara Wakita and Gold Coast local Eden Putland saw the two go blow-for-blow in Heat 5, exchanging waves in the excellent range. Wakita looked very comfortable despite the small conditions and was a standout of the round with a near perfect 9.00 to back up an 8.75.

"I went out there with a plan to just sit deep at first then once I actually got a wave I tried to stay more in the pocket," Wakita said. "I got knocked out early in the first QS in Sydney, so I definitely gained some confidence in that heat with those two nines."

Sara Wakita progresses through Round 1 at the 2018 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro Sara Wakita posted an excellent heat total of 17.75 to win her Round Three heat. WSL / Andrew Hobbs

Hailing from just down the road in Coolangatta, Pacha Luque-Light has been looking forward to surfing a QS event on home territory. She got her campaign off to a great start by winning her opening heat with a total of 10.50.

Pacha Luque-Light progresses through Round 1 at the 2018 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro Pacha Luque-Light during one of the glassy morning heats. WSL / Andrew Hobbs

"Apart from a couple of swells the waves have been like this for a while now so I'm feeling pretty comfortable," Luque-Light said. "I just tried to stay super light on my feet and went out there with a positive attitude and it seemed to work for me. This is such an important headland on the Gold Coast; it was the first Indigenous reserve so to surf here is really special. It's a very powerful and magical part of the world. If we get the waves we are supposed to this weekend it will be an amazing event."

Another Queenslander who is no stranger to small-wave surfing is Sasha Baker who took out her Round One heat in tough conditions. In one of the slower heats of Day 2, Baker was able to find a couple of mediocre waves and surf them to their full potential to progress into Round Two.

Sasha Baker progresses through Round 1 at the 2018 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro Sasha Baker took out her heat in front of the massive Australia Day crowds at Burleigh. WSL / Tom Bennett

"It was really slow out there," Baker said. "Everyone is in the same boat so you can't be too down about it. Along with points and prize money, making heats means getting closer to getting to surf a heat during this swell on the weekend which would be awesome."

Burleigh ripper Hinata Aizawa put his local experience to the test, finding a couple of gems to take out his Round Two Heat. The powerful goofyfoot moves a step closer to surfing great waves at his local spot without the extreme crowds.

Pacha Luque-Light progresses through Round 1 at the 2018 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro Pacha Luque-Light with super coach Stace Galbraith breaking down her Round Two heat win. WSL / Tom Bennett

"I surf waves like this here all the time so I felt super prepared," Aizawa said. "the sand is good at the moment so if this swell does eventually come we will get some really fun waves. Surfing any of the Gold Coast points when there is no one out is amazing so I hope to keep making heats."

Newcastle upstart Morgan Cibilic has a great relationship with the Gold Coast having won his first WSL event here less than a year ago. He started where he left off progressing into Round Three in second place with Kenta Ishikawa taking the top spot.

Morgan Ciblic progresses through Round 1 at the 2018 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro Morgan Cibilic returning to the Gold Coast for the first time since his JQS win last year. WSL / Tom Bennett

"It's so good to be back here again on the Gold Coast, the weather is perfect and the water is beautiful," Cibilic said. "The forecast looks like it's going to be fun over the weekend. It would be sweet to have another event with good waves so I'm hoping for that perfect Burleigh Point and maybe even a few barrels."

Another Gold Coaster who made light work of his Round Two heat was Tugun's Max Kearney. The silky-smooth goofyfooter looked in tune with the small waves and easily progressed through his heat with a heat total of 11.00.

2018 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro Big Russ willing in waves at Burleigh WSL / Tom Bennett

"I had fourth priority for a while so I just tried to stay busy," Kearney said. "I snagged a couple and got a five and a six. It was a tough heat but it's good to move on. Whenever Burleigh's really good on a cyclone swell I always come here and surf it. The wide bank starts to barrel when it's big so fingers crossed that on Sunday we will see the swell pick up."

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