World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) surfer Matt Wilkinson (AUS) took to the water kick-starting his 2016 competitive season. Wilkinson looked focused and relaxed as he posted a solid heat total of 15.93 (out of a possible 20).
"I've been really excited to get this season underway," Wilkinson said. "I had a really fun off-season but got back to work and training a little earlier than usual so I'm feeling good. Hopefully the swell keeps building and we get some waves in the next few days. Doing this event is really good for me warming up for Snapper, it's good for your confidence and just knowing you can still post scores."
After a Final appearance earlier this year at the Sunset Pro, Hawaiian Tanner Hendrickson (HAW) absolutely dominated his heat posting two single-wave scores in the excellent range, a 9.33 and a 8.83. Hendrickson stayed busy all heat and it paid off.
"It's so hard out there," Hendrickson said. "Finding a good wave is almost impossible but I figured if I try and catch a lot of waves eventually I would find one I could post a score on and eventually I did. I came last in my first heat at this event last year so hopefully I can go a bit further this year."
After just missing out on qualifying for the CT last year, Australian Mitch Coleborn (AUS) is eager to get his 2016 campaign off to a strong start. In the deteriorating conditions, Coleborn found himself needing a 6.50 in the last minute. With only seconds remaining, Coleborn took off on a right nailing two solid backhand snaps then continued left, hitting the closeout at the wave's end to earn himself a 7.33 and the advance to Round 3.
"I stayed super busy and felt as if I was surfing well all heat," Coleborn said. "When I heard I was in third I got pretty angry as there was only thirty seconds left. I just surfed the wave for what it was and luckily got a couple of sections on the inside that I think got me the score. I'm stoked to be back competing and am keen to get the year off to a solid start".
Continuing her solid form in 2016 was Central Coaster Macy Callaghan (AUS) who is fresh off winning the NIB Pro Junior here at Surfest over the weekend. Callaghan took a large number of waves in her heat, a tactic that paid off as the current No. 2 on the QS ratings progressed into Round 3.
"I've been a bit nervous at this event as there is so many big names competing," Callaghan said. "I sort of enjoy being the underdog. I just hope I can keep moving through the draw so I can come up against one of the CT girls, that would be really cool."
After an unsteady Round 1 Heat, former CT surfer Alana Blanchard (HAW) looked in complete control in Round 2, posting an excellent 8-point-ride with some progressive surfing, releasing her fins on a number of turns.
"It looked really fun before I paddled out then as the tide dropped it became harder and harder," Blanchard said. "I just wanted to have fun out there, yesterday I struggled a bit and wasn't having fun so today I really just wanted to have fun and I think it worked for me."