The 30th Anniversary of Surfest wrapped up with Alejo Muniz (BRA) taking out the Burton Automotive Pro and Ellie Brooks (AUS) taking top honors in the Burton Automotive Women's Classic. The World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) men's and women's divisions are the blue ribbon events at the Surfest -- the men's being a 6,000-point event and the women's a 1,000-point event -- and hundreds of Newcastle's surf fans braved the rain, wind and weather to watch the competition.
Muniz celebrated his 25th birthday by defeating Jack Freestone (AUS) in the 35-minute Final. A pulsing swell provided the perfect stage for these two exciting surfers to show what they're capable of. Muniz started slow, waiting for the biggest and best waves and unloading explosive and exciting turns to take home the prestigious Mark Richard trophy.
"It's my birthday today so this feels extra special," Muniz said. "It also feels amazing because two years ago I finished second to Parko (Joel Parkinson) here and now I was able to win. Before the Final I wrote a message on my board to my friend Ricardo Dos Santos -- he was an amazing surfer and he passed away one month ago. This is a very special day for me to dedicate this win to him."
Freestone, a former two-time Junior Tour Champion, was in great form at Surfest this year, launching and landing technical aerials in every heat seemingly with ease. This is Freestone's best ever result on the QS and he's fired up for the year ahead.
"It's hard to go so far in an event and finish second," Freestone said. "Hats off to Alejo (Muniz), he's a great surfer. It's a great way to start my year. I'm psyched. Now I'll head home and get ready for the Quiksilver Pro trials next week and see what happens next."
Parkinson, the 2012 World Champion and the 2013 Surfest champion, had to settle for equal third place this year after being eliminated in the Semifinals by a red-hot Freestone. Parkinson had been the standout surfer of the event, posting scores in the nine-point range every heat. But against Freestone he couldn't put a complete wave together and had to watch Freestone's aerial antics from out the back of the lineup.
"I couldn't do anything out there, I blew all my waves," Parkinson said. "I told Jack (Freestone) earlier that to be on the CT (Championship Tour) next year he's only got to get five good results and now he's already got one. I hope he goes on to qualify for next year, then I can have a re-match with him and get him back for beating me."
Brooks started the Burton Automotive Women's Classic as the underdog, matching up against former event champion and Newcastle local Philippa Anderson (AUS). But Brooks used her powerful backhand hooks and carves to post the biggest scores and take her maiden QS win.
"When the siren sounded I was wondering if this was really happening," Brooks said. "I packed the car a couple days ago thinking I'd be going home early so to now be the winner feels so good. This is going to give me confidence to know I can compete at this level and I'm excited for the next event in NZ in a few weeks."