The field is slowly being whittled down at the 2017 Flight Centre Burleigh Pro with Day 3 seeing the completion of Men's Rounds Three and Four. The small, tricky conditions have continued at the iconic Burleigh Heads with the events top seeds doing battle in clean 1-2 foot waves.
After falling off the elite Championship Tour at the end of his rookie year, New Zealand's Ricardo Christie has been fighting to reclaim his spot ever since. Christie is using the Flight Centre Burleigh Pro as a warm-up for some of the bigger Qualifying Series events later in the year. He kicked off his 2017 campaign perfectly by squeezing himself into Round Five on Finals day.
"It's great to be surfing an event at Burleigh," Christie said. "On the QS we get dealt conditions similar to this all the time I just look at it as good practice. My aim is to get back on tour so my season starts here at Burleigh. It seems to be going well so far and I'm feeling good.
Another former CT surfer who snuck into Round Five was Maroubra local Blake Thornton. The powerful natural footer showed his experience in the testing conditions, only catching select waves to post his heat totals. Thornton will now face off in Heat 1 of Round Five.
"I'm not sure if the experience helps for wave choice or more for just staying relaxed in tough heats like that," Thornton said. "A lot of the younger boys try and catch heaps of waves where I'm happy to chill and wait for the sets. That's what I did in both of todays heats and it worked so I'll just keep doing that I suppose."
One of the shock upsets of the entire event came in Round Four when Championship Tour veteran Bede Durbidge was eliminated by young up and comers Kalani Ball and Timothee Bisso. Durbidge, who has just come back from a year of recovery following a horrific accident surfing in Hawaii, looked to be in good form but couldn't quite match the light-footed surfing of Bisso and Ball.
"It is such a shame the waves are so small," Durbidge said. "The sand at Burleigh is perfect at the moment so with a bit of swell it would have been amazing, but it wasn't the case. I'm really stoked to be back competing and especially kicking it off at home. I have seen Tim and Kalani over the years in Hawaii and know how good they are so I knew it would be tough. They rip. It is great to be surfing heats again, my body is feeling great and I'm really excited for the season ahead."
Kalani Ball just came from a second place finish at the Carve Pro in Maroubra last weekend and has continued his searing form at Burleigh, posting an excellent heat total of 16.50 (out of a possible 20) in Round Four. Although slightly daunting, beating a CT star like Bede was massive achievement for Ball.
"It's really exciting to come up against guys like Bede," said Ball. "Competing against one of the world's best is a great challenge. I'm really happy to have won that heat as Bede was surfing really well and Tim had a 9.00, so I'm stoked. My boards and body are feeling really good at the moment so I'm really happy."