Day one of the nudie Australian Boardriders Battle got underway Saturday with 24 boardriders clubs from all over Australia vying to put themselves into the box-seat position going into Sunday's final day.
2017 Championship Tour rookie Ethan Ewing was quick to demonstrate the dominant form behind his qualification effort, nailing the highest single-wave score for the Skins division for his local Point Lookout boardriders. Ewing executed a barrage of giant turns to post a near-perfect 9.60 and send a warning shot to rival clubs that he would be one to watch going into the second round of competition tomorrow.
"I love representing North Stradbroke Island," Ewing said. "This event has a really cool format and it's a good warm-up for the rest of the year. There is a lot of pressure to perform but it's good pressure, which I love. It really fires me up and gets me pumped to do the best I can for my club. I'm stoked to be here and was loving the little lefts that were rolling through, the conditions are really fun."
CT surfer Stuart Kennedy attributed Le-Ba's narrow victory to the stellar efforts of his teammates after the club managed to squeak through their opening heat. After Kennedy only managed to muster up a meager four-point ride, the club was left to rely on the efforts of club stalwarts James Wood and Adam Melling to get them into a better position.
"I had a shocker in that heat, it was really lucky Woody and Melling put some decent points on the board," said Kennedy. "In this team environment, we always have little mistakes and you have to rely on your teammates to smash it apart. The energy is focused on more than just yourself in these sorts of events."
Perth Standlick was nominated as the Skins surfer for his local Bondi club and wasted little time taking down some of his big name rivals. Over the duration of his three-heat streak, Standlick mustered up a comeback against former World Championship Tour surfer Shaun Cansdell, and a storybook win over 2012 World Champion Joel Parkinson and former World Championship Tour surfer Ryan Callinan. He solidified the hat-trick with a final victory over 2017 World Championship Tour rookie Connor O'Leary.
"I actually gave Shaun his eight-point ride in the first heat I had and I left it right to the last minute to claw back," said Standlick. "I felt like I was the underdog in the next two heats, so to get the win over guys who have qualified for the CT is an awesome feeling. Hopefully we use the momentum to carry us into the Teams division."
6x World Champion Stephanie Gilmore got her 2017 campaign underway taking an impressive victory for Snapper Rocks in her opening women's heat. Gilmore found a handful of long running lefts and punchy righthanders to post a respectable 14.85 heat total (out of a possible 20 points) and as a result claimed a narrow win ahead of 2017 CT rookie Bronte Macaulay.
"I use this as the perfect practice for the upcoming year," said Gilmore. "The pressure you feel when you're out there for your club is unlike any other feeling. It's unreal to share these heats with surfers from states that may never get to see or compete in a World Tour event."
With the dust finally beginning to settle after her maiden World Title, Tyler Wright returned to the competitive arena today, dominating her women's heat for Culburra Boardriders. Wright put on an impeccable performance notching up a 17.50 heat total, which consisted of two excellent scores in excess of 8.50.
"That was such a nice and fun environment," said Wright. "Surfing on the Tour, the only person you need to please is yourself, but when you're there as a team, you don't want to let anyone down. I think the coolest thing about this event is that you get to share it with young surfers like Carly [Shanahan - Coffs Harbour] and have the opportunity to talk to them."
Media sensation Sabre Norris played a small, but critical part in getting Merewether through to the next round of the Teams division. Norris executed a handful of impressive forehand snaps to post a minor score that allowed Merewether to get a slight edge over the Culburra Boardriders team.
"Surfing with all the older guys is really cool," Norris said. "I was really nervous because I didn't want to let the team down. It is such a different feeling surfing for a team, there is a lot more pressure. After Luke got that amazing wave before me it took a bit of the pressure off. This event is so cool because I could get to surf a heat against Steph Gilmore or Tyler Wright, two of my favorite surfers."