The WSL Qualifying Series (QS) has descended on Merewether in Newcastle for the 2019 Newcastle Surfest, one of the world's most iconic surfing events. The Burton Automotive Pro and Holmes Civil Developments Pro QS6,000 events will see a field of over 200 of the world's best men's and women's surfers from over 30 countries battle it out for all important QS rankings points as they vie for a spot on the elite WSL Championship Tour (CT) in 2020.
The Burton Automotive Pro kicked off proceedings at Merewether Beach with 16 heats of Round 1 being run in bumpy 2-foot surf. There were some solid performances considering the waves with surfers like Flavio Nakagima (BRA) making light work of the small, weak surf. Nakagima was quick on his feet as he posted a heat win to progress into Round 2.
"I surf a lot of waves like this at home in Brazil so I knew it wouldn't be too hard for me," Nakagima said. "I didn't do too well at the recent QS6,000 in Brazil so I'm looking for some big results at these two events in Australia. This win is a good start for me and it looks like the waves will be better soon which makes things easy."
Young Gold Coast upstart Liam O'Brien continued his solid run of form today at Newcastle, progressing through his Round 1 heat closely behind an on-fireVictor Bernardo. Although he was stoked to make it through, O'Brien felt for countryman Sheldon Simkus and Dean Bowen who were eliminated in his heat.
"It feels good to progress through that one," O'Brien said. "It's always a shame coming up against the other Aussie guys when they get eliminated because you want them to do well but it is cool that I've been competing against Sheldon since we were kids and now we're doing it in these big international events. It was pretty scrappy out there today so I'm just glad to have made it."
Hawaiian Joshua Moniz hasn't had the start to 2019 that he'd hoped for, bowing out in the opening rounds at recent QS events in Hawaii and Brazil. Moniz finally got his year on track today, comfortably winning his opening exchange at the Burton Automotive Pro. Moniz says that he finds energy from his sister Kelia, who recently had a Finals finish at the Noosa Longboard Open and brother Seth who is preparing for his rookie season on the elite Championship Tour.
"I've had a few weird heats that haven't gone my way this year so I'm so stoked to get a win finally," Moniz said. "If it wasn't so close to this event time wise I would have definitely gone to watch my sister up at Noosa but unfortunately I couldn't. I definitely draw alot of energy from my sibblings which is cool."
Holmes Civil Developments Pro Celebrates New Surfest Women's Trophy
The Women's QS6,000 as part of Newcastle Surfest is one of the most unique in the world with the entire event being crowdfunded by local Newcastle businesses. Each year, every business that donates goes into the draw to take out the spot as naming right sponsor. Although it's a fantastic initiative to encourage local businesses to get behind women's surfing, it has always made it hard for the event to own and name a perpetual trophy, like the Mark Richards Trophy that is awarded to the male winner in Newcastle.
In 2019, The Holmes Civil Developments Pro, Women's QS6,000 will award for the first time, the Surfest Women's Trophy. The trophy was sculpted by Julie Squires, the same artist who produced the MR Trophy over 20 years ago and has been developed to share a likeness to Newcastle surfing legend and event hopeful Phillipa Anderson (AUS) who is thrilled to be apart of the new tradition.
"It's really exciting to have this trophy and to be able to say I got to be a part of its design is really cool," Anderson said, "I think it's a great thing for Surfest but also signifies all of the great things that are happening in women's surfing."
Australian surfing legend and four-time World Surfing Champion Mark Richards is over the moon that female competitors will have the opportunity to hoist the new trophy up on Finals Day at Surfest. The local legend who never won Surfest times,
"It's so great to see that there is now a perpetual trophy for the women's event here at Surfest," said Richards. "It's always been a tricky situation with the continually changing naming-rights sponsor but I think they've done the right thing to name it the Surfest Women's Trophy. It's so great to see it modelled on the style of great Novacastrian Philippa Anderson and I'd hope to see her holding it on the podium in less than a week from now."
A group of the world's best surfers will use Newcastle Surfest as the perfect launchpad for their respective 2019 Championship Tour Campaigns which will begin on the Gold Coast in less than a month.
Championship Tour Stars Get 2019 Season Underway at Newcastle Surfest
The likes of Julian Wilson, Owen Wright, Wade Carmichael, local boy Ryan Callinan, Joan Duru, Jesse Mendes, Soli Bailey and Jack Freestone make up the CT ranks vying for the Surfest title on the men's side, and Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Nikki Van Dijk, Macy Callaghan, Bronte Macaulay, Johanne Defay, Paige Hareb, Brisa Hennessy, Coco Ho, Malia Manuel and Caroline Marks staking their claim on the women's side.
That's a stacked line-up of CT talent for a QS6000, but it's no surprise when you look at the history of Surfest winners past. It's an outrageous list of big name World Champions, like Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo, Damien Hardman, Tom Carroll, Barton Lynch, Joel Parkinson, Adriano De Souza, Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning, Wendy Botha, Frieda Zamba, Pam Burridge, Pauline Menczer, Steph Gilmore - alongside cult figures and underground lords like Dayyan Neve, Michael Rommelse, Jodie Cooper and Rebecca Woods. It's a list of names any surfer would want their own tacked on to the end of. But there has been, on the men's side at least, a lack of local representation written on that trophy (Phillippa Anderson won in 2009).